Russia's Soyuz TMA-11M crew transport reached the International Space Station early Thursday with a Russian, U.S., and Japanese crew, temporarily raising the population of the orbiting science lab to nine astronauts for weekend activities marking the approach of the 2014 Winter Games.
The capsule docked with the station's Russian-segment Rassvet module at 5:27 a.m., EST, delivering newcomers Mikhail Tyurin, Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata for a six month tour of duty.
U.S., Russian and Japanese crew nears space station for dockiing. Photo Credit: NASA TV.
The spacecraft lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday at 11:14 p.m., EST, or Thursday at 10:14 a.m., local time, to initiate a fourth, four orbit, six hour "express" transit to the station by a Soyuz crew.
"Everything is nominal," reported Tyurin with the linkup. "We're home."
The TMA-11M astronauts were greeted by ISS Expedition 37 commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and his crew, Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy, all of Russia; NASA's Karen Nyberg and Mike Hopkins; as well as the European Space Agency's Luca Parmitano.
An unlit ceremonial Olympic torch stowed aboard the TMA-11M capsule will accompany Kotov and Ryazanskiy on Saturday as they embark on a spacewalk to prepare the station’s Russian segment for the departure of the Pirs docking module and arrival of the Multipurpose Laboratory Module.
The torch is scheduled to return to Earth late Sunday, as Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano board their Soyuz TMA-09M transport for a descent to Earth, with a landing under parachute in Kazakhstan to end 5 1/2 months in orbit.
As the trio departs, command of the station will transfer from Yurchikhin to Kotov for Expedition 38.
The torch will make its way to Sochi, Russia, where it will be used to light the Olympic flame for the Winter Games in February.