With Expedition 11 Commander Sergei Krikalev at the controls, the Soyuz TMA-6 spacecraft automatically linked up to the Pirs Docking Compartment at 9:20 p.m. CDT as the Soyuz and the Station flew over eastern Asia. Within minutes, hooks and latches between the two vehicles joined together to form a tight seal.
Aboard the Soyuz with Krikalev were NASA Expedition 11 Flight Engineer and Science Officer John Phillips and European Space Agency (ESA) Astronaut Roberto Vittori of Italy.
Hatches between the Soyuz and the Station were opened at 11:45 p.m. Saturday. The two crews greeted one another with handshakes and hugs. The first activity scheduled for the five crewmembers was a safety briefing to familiarize the newly arrived trio with emergency escape procedures.
Krikalev and Phillips will remain on board the Station until October. Vittori will return to Earth next week after eight days of scientific experiments on the complex under a commercial agreement between ESA and the Russian Federal Space Agency. The trio launched at dawn Friday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for their two-day journey to the outpost.
Aboard the Station at the time of docking were Expedition 10 Commander and NASA Science Officer Leroy Chiao and Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov, who are wrapping up their six-month mission and who will ride home on their Soyuz TMA-5 capsule with Vittori on April 25 for a pre-dawn landing in central Kazakhstan. Saturday marked the 185th day in space for Chiao and Sharipov and their 183rd day on the Station.
Krikalev and Phillips will relocate the new Soyuz from Pirs to the Zarya module docking port this summer.
On hand for the docking activities at the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow were NASA Deputy Administrator Fred Gregory, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Space Station and Space Shuttle Programs Michael Kostelnik, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Craig Steidle and ISS Program Manager William Gerstenmaier along with Russian and European space officials.
On Sunday before they begin an extended sleep period, the new crew will transfer their custom-made Soyuz seatliners as well as cargo carried aloft on the Soyuz for the complex. Later in the day, initial briefings on the handover from the current residents to their replacements will be conducted and the new Soyuz' systems will be deactivated.
Over the next week, Krikalev and Phillips will familiarize themselves with Station systems and stowed equipment, conduct robotics training with the Canadarm2 robot arm, and receive detailed briefings on scientific payloads. Phillips and Chiao will also continue the maintenance and repair work on the cooling systems in the U.S. airlock Quest for the resumption of spacewalk capability from the Station this summer.
In addition, they will pack discarded gear and equipment for return to Earth on the Raffaello cargo module that will be brought to the Station on the Space Shuttle's Return to Flight mission, STS-114, targeted to arrive next month on the Shuttle Discovery.