A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying three astronauts successfully docked with the International Space Station late on Sunday. The trio, who joined the Expedition 42 crew members in the orbiting laboratory, were launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:01 p.m. EST.
The Russian Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft carried Terry Virts of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency. Expedition 42 Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore of NASA and Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of Roscosmos welcomed the new crew members aboard after the spacecraft docked with the ISS at 9:48 p.m. EST.
“The interference of the crew in the Kurs [docking] system, luckily, was not required. The spacecraft docked with the Russian segment of the ISS automatically,” Sputnik quoted a Roscosmos spokesperson as saying.
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The three astronauts are expected to spend 169 days in orbit and conduct work with Russian cargo spacecraft Progress and European cargo spacecraft ATV-5.
According to NASA, the Expedition 42 crew will perform experiments covering several areas, including human research, biological and physical sciences, technology development, and observations of Earth.
The crew is also scheduled to receive cargo vehicles during their mission, including a number of U.S. commercial resupply flights, two Russian Progress resupply missions and oversee the departure of the final European ATV cargo spacecraft.
After Wilmore, Samokutyaev and Serova return to Earth in March 2015, Virts will become commander for Expedition 43. Virts, Shkaplerov and Cristoforetti will return to Earth in May 2015, NASA said.