The Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft docked at the space station’s rooftop after a two-day orbital chase. Riding on the Soyuz were American astronaut Kevin Ford of NASA and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin, who are beginning a five-month mission to the space station.
“We can see you, everything looks fine,” Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, who was already onboard the station, told the approaching crew before the two spacecraft docked about 230 miles (370 km) over southern Ukraine.
Ford, Novitskiy and Tarelkin launched into space on Tuesday (Oct. 23) atop a Soyuz rocket that blasted off from the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They are the second half of the space station’s six-person Expedition 33 crew, which is commanded by NASA astronaut Sunita Williams. Malenchenko and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide round out the crew.
The Soyuz spacecraft is bringing some fishy friends to the space station in addition to its human crew. The spacecraft is ferrying 32 small medaka fish to the space station so they can be placed inside a tank, called the Aquatic Habitat, for an experiment to study how fish adapt to weightlessness.
Thursday’s Soyuz docking at the space station kicks off a flurry of arrivals and departures at the International Space Station.
A robotic Dragon space capsule built by the private spaceflight company SpaceX will depart the space station on Sunday (Oct. 28) and splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California. The Dragon capsule will return nearly 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) of science experiment hardware and other gear back to Earth.
On Wednesday (Oct. 31), an unmanned Russian Progress spacecraft will launch toward the space station and arrive six hours later to make a Halloween delivery of food, equipment and other Halloween treats.
Williams, Hoshide and Malenchenko are in the final weeks of their mission to the space station, and will return to Earth Nov. 12. At that time, Ford will take command of the space station crew to begin the Expedition 34 mission.