Soyuz rocket lifts off from Baikonur spaceport. Credit: RiaNovosti.
The ISS just got a little crowded. There are now 9 astronauts and cosmonauts on the station, pending the departure of the Expedition 37 crew. Last night the Russian Soyuz rocket blasted spacecraft TMA-11M into a short trajectory orbit to rendezvous with the ISS. After a six hour journey, the Soyuz docked with the station and shortly after the crew joined the team on the station.
The new crew poses with the old crew. NASA TV.
The last time there were nine persons on the station was back in October of 2009. That is, without a Space Shuttle docked somewhere. In the photo above are posed the three groups of astronauts linking Expedition 36 to Expedition 38. Sometimes that gets confusing. In the front row are flight engineers Mikhail Tyurin (C), Koichi Wakata (L) and Rick Mastraccio (R), just arriving from Earth. They will be the second shift of the New Expedition 38. In the gray flight suits are Oleg Kotov, Mike Hopkins, and Sergey Ryazanskiy. They were the second half of Expedition 37 and become the lead team for Expedition 38. Behind them is the second half of Expedition 36, which became the lead team for Expedition 37: Karen Nyberg, Fyodor Yurchikhin, and Luca Parmitano. They are scheduled to leave the station on Sunday to return home to Earth in Soyuz TMA-09M.
Easy... easy... a little to the left... now forward... Soyuz TMA-11M prepares to dock early Thursday morning at the Russian Rassvet docking module. NASA TV.
Cosmonaut Oleg Kotov will officially begin command of Expedition 38 on Sunday when the TMA-09M undocks from the ISS. Of the new expedition crew, only Sergey Ryazanskiy and Mike Hopkins are on their first flights. Astronaut Koichi Wakata (Japan) has been on shuttle flights and a previous stay on board the ISS. COming up this week on Friday is a news conference to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the beginning of construction for ISS. On Saturday Kotov and Ryazanskiy will perform an EVA to take the Olympic Torch (just brought up) outside the station. This torch will return to Earth with the TMA-09M flight and will be used in the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympic Games in Russia in 2014.