Soyuz rocket blasts off from Baikonur.
The Soyuz TNA-09m lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome at about 2:31 p.m. MDT yesterday, carrying a three-astronaut crew to the ISS. Soyuz commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, Flight engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano make up the second half of the Expedition 36 ISS crew. The night time launch went well and placed the Soyuz capsule on a 6-hour quick path to the station.
Cramped quarters inside the capsule.
This flight was the second use of the new shorter rendezvous course to the ISS. Good thing, since, as you can see from the screenshot above (thank you NASA TV), the occupants have to remain squeezed into an uncomfortable position while they travel to the docking port. You might notice the stuffed plush toys hanging from the console. This helps ground flight controllers watching on monitors understand when the crew reaches zero gravity. Perhaps it also brings good luck. In any case it brought a smile to many viewers!
Approaching Soyuz against the Earth's blue oceans.
The Soyuz reached the station in under six hours and began maneuvering for docking. The target docking port is located on the Russian Rassvet module.
Soyuz moves in closer to the docking port.
Docking occurred at 8:10 pm MDT. The craft had completed four orbits of the Earth before rendezvous. The crew could then secure their space suits and begin the procedures to equalize pressures in the Soyuz prior to opening the hatch.
Luca Parmitano makes it clear he's happy to be on board!
The station hatch opened at 12:14 a.m. MDT, and the crew was welcomed aboard by the first section of Expedition 36 station commander Pavel Vinogradov and FLight Engineers Chris Cassidy and Alexander Misurkin. Their section arrived at the station on March 28.
The complete Expedition 36 crew.
The complete crew will man the station until September, when the first section will return to Earth and cosmonaut Yurchikhin will become the Expedition 37 commander.