Expedition 7 Commander Yuri Malenchenko and Flight Engineer and NASA ISS Science Officer Ed Lu monitored systems as their Soyuz TMA-2 spacecraft gently flew to a smooth, automated docking with the station's Zarya Control Module at 12:56 a.m. CDT. At the time of docking, the two space vehicles sailed some 240 statute miles over Kazakhstan, home of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, from where Malenchenko and Lu were launched on Saturday. Within minutes, hooks and latches on the Soyuz and Zarya docking mechanisms were fully engaged to provide a firm mate.
On the ISS, Expedition 6 Commander Ken Bowersox, Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin and NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit watched closely as the first visitors of their increment eased the new Soyuz to its port along side the Soyuz TMA-1 capsule, which has been linked to the Pirs Docking Compartment since November. Three Russian vehicles now reside at the ISS, including a Progress resupply ship.
Bowersox, Budarin and Pettit will ride home in on the older Soyuz Sunday (late Saturday CDT) to a landing in Kazakhstan to complete a mission that began with their launch Nov. 23, 2002. It will mark the first time in history U.S. astronauts will have returned from space in a Russian craft.
At the time of docking, Bowersox, Budarin and Pettit had been in space for 156 days, 154 days on the station.
Shortly before docking, while the new Soyuz sat about 200 meters away from the ISS for a few minutes of stationkeeping and systems checks, Pettit used high-powered digital camera lenses in the Destiny laboratory to document the capsule's arrival at the station.
At 2:27 a.m. CDT, after comprehensive leak checks between the newly arrived Soyuz and the Zarya module, hatches swung open and the two crews greeted one another to begin six days of joint handover operations primarily designed to familiarize the new crew with ISS systems and the location of key hardware and consumables.
The five crewmembers accepted congratulations from Deputy NASA Administrator Frederick Gregory, Deputy Associate Administrator Michael Kostelnik and ISS Program Manager Bill Gerstenmaier in a call from the Russian Mission Control Center in Korolev, outside Moscow, where they watched the docking with a large contingent of U.S. and Russian space officials.
The crews then began to transfer a small amount of clothes and supplies carried into orbit on the new Soyuz, and are scheduled to conduct a safety briefing later today.
Malenchenko, Budarin and Bowersox will have a Soyuz descent and landing training session Wednesday to fine tune techniques Budarin will use on Saturday as he commands the return craft for its trip back to Earth. Bowersox, Budarin and Pettit will undock from the complex at 5:40 p.m. CDT May 3 en route to a landing in Kazakhstan at 9:03 p.m. that day.
Malenchenko and Lu will remain aboard the station conducting a series of scientific and educational activities until late October.