Soyuz Docks, Delivers Crew

The approaching Soyuz TMA-05M as captured from the International Space Station on July 17 (Credits: NASA).

On the morning of July 17, the Soyuz TMA-05M docked at the Rassvet module, delivering its cargo of three new crewmembers to the International Space Station. The docking took place directly over Kazakhstan, from which the Soyuz had launched two days before.

“Everything is perfect,” Yuri Malenchenko, the Soyuz commander, radioed Russia’s Mission Control Center in Korolev, just outside Moscow. Malenchenko, Sunita Williams, and Aki Hoshide boarded the station three hours later at 7:23 GMT. Their arrival brings ISS to its full crew complement of six.

Astronaut Deke Slayton and Cosmonaut Aleksey Leonov meet in space in the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (Credits: NASA).

It was an auspicious day for the trinational space meeting, 37 years to the day after the first international space docking occured with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. That mission, which tested the ability to dock dissimilar spacecraft, resulted in long standing astronaut-cosmonaut friendships and led to an increasingly international space presence.

Malenchenko, Williams, and Hoshide will spend four months on the station. Although shorter than the usual six month deployment due to earlier launch delays, the three are likely to have a very busy time of it. On July 22, the crew will be involved in a rendezvous test in which the docked Progress cargo vessel will undock, then redock the following day. On July 27, the crew will receive the HTV Japanese resupply vessel which requires a manual grapple to be performed by Flight Engineer Joe Acaba. Yet another resupply vessel is expected from Russia on August 1 in a test of a new rendezvous plan that shortens flight time to the station. Before the three return to Earth in November they are likely to receive at least one more cargo vessel, this one from a commercial partner.

Amidst all these rendezvous and docking manevuers, the station crew will somehow fit in their regular experiments, maintenance activities, and exercise regimen to prevent muscle and bone losses during their stay. But before the madness starts, the newcomers are taking an extended sleep period. After a launch, two day flight, a welcome ceremony, safety briefing, unloading of the Soyuz, and getting settled in, they surely need it.

Watch below as Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Sergei Revin welcome the new arrivals:


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