Nighttime launch of Soyuz TMA-20M from Baikonur.
ISS crew rotations continued yesterday with the launch of Soyuz 46 (TMA-20M) during a night launch from Kazakhstan. On board were Soyuz commander Alexey Ovchinin, cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, and astronaut Jeffrey Williams. They are forming the second half of Expedition 47 which is currently in command of the International Space Station. That half of the crew consists of Expedition commander Timothy Kopra (NASA) and flight engineers Timothy Peak (UK) and Yuri Malenchenko (Roscosmos).
The Soyuz had a fourth honorary crewmember, a fluffy owl. View of Ochinin and Shkripochka in the cramped Soyuz capsule.
Opposite view. Jeffrey Williams monitors the flight plan while the owl hangs by a string from the console, indicating the craft is still under acceleration.
Once the Soyuz spacecraft separated from the third stage and shut down acceleration, the microgravity of zero-G kicked in and the little owl floated out of view. The fluffy doll was given to its task by Ovchinin's daughter. During flight, the couches are far enough from the console that a telescopic rod is used to reach and press buttons and switches.
Russian mission control outside of Moscow monitors the orbital progress of the Soyuz.
After a six-hour chase of the orbiting ISS 251 miles above the Earth, the Soyuz spacecraft slowed down and began maneuvering to dock with the station. The two spacecraft docked a short time later, and the hatch was opened once the atmosphere pressure check was completed.
Soyuz on docking approach.
Welcoming ceremony. In back, L-R: Malenchenko, Kopra, Peake. in front L-R: Williams, Ovchinin, Skripochka.