With Expedition 12 Flight Engineer and Soyuz Commander Valery Tokarev at the controls, the Soyuz TMA-7 spacecraft automatically linked up to the Pirs Docking Compartment at 12:27 a.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 hard mate.
Aboard the Soyuz with Tokarev were NASA Expedition 12 Commander and Science Officer Bill McArthur and U.S. Spaceflight Participant Gregory Olsen, who will spend eight days on the complex under a commercial agreement with the Russian Federal Space Agency.
After two orbits worth of systems checks, hatches between the Soyuz and the station were opened at 3:36 a.m. CDT. Expedition 11 Commander Sergei Krikalev and NASA Flight Engineer and Science Officer John Phillips greeted their colleagues with handshakes and hugs and the traditional offering of bread and salt. The first activity scheduled for the five crewmembers was a safety briefing to familiarize the newly arrived trio with emergency escape procedures. For Krikalev and Phillips, today marked their 171st day in space and their 169th day on the station since they arrived in April.
McArthur and Tokarev will remain on board the station until April 2006. Olsen will return to Earth next week after eight days of scientific and photography experiments with Krikalev and Phillips in the Soyuz TMA-6 spacecraft that is docked to the Zarya module. The new crew launched Saturday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for its two-day journey to the outpost.
McArthur and Tokarev are scheduled to relocate the new Soyuz from Pirs to Zarya on Nov. 18.
Among the NASA officials on hand for the docking activities at the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow were William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for space operations, and Bob Cabana, the deputy director of the Johnson Space Center.
Later today, before beginning an extended sleep period, the new crewmembers will transfer Olsen's custom-made Soyuz seatliner to the older Soyuz he will ride home in as well as cargo carried aloft on the new Soyuz for the complex. In addition, 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, McArthur and Tokarev will familiarize themselves with station systems and stowed equipment, conduct robotics training with the Canadarm2 robot arm, and receive detailed briefings on scientific payloads.