A spacecraft carrying an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts on Wednesday successfully docked to the International Space Station.
The Soyuz TMA-22 with NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin onboard docked to the orbiting station several minutes ahead of schedule Moscow time. The three blasted off from the Russia-leased cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday.
The 39-year-old Shkaplerov and 42-year-old Ivanishin are making their first flights into space. Burbank, 50, who will take over command of the space station, is a veteran of 12-day shuttle missions in 2000 and 2006. The three men are to remain aboard the space station until March.
The mission’s launch had been delayed for two months because of the crash of an unmanned Progress cargo ship in August. That failed launch raised doubts about future missions to the station, because the rocket the crashed ship used had the same upper stage as the booster rockets carrying Soyuz ships to orbit. The delay cut the mission onboard to three people.
American Michael Fossum, Russian Sergey Volkov and Japanese Satoshi Furukawa have been onboard since June and are due to return to Earth next week. Another launch next month will take the station back to its normal six-person crew mode.
William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for space operations, said in a televised news briefing shortly after the docking that “the Russian team did the tremendous job of getting the launch and the docking ready.”
The three men are expected to move from their ship to the space station about two hours after the docking.