Moscow: Russia`s Soyuz spacecraft carrying an unlit Olympic torch for 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and three astronauts today successfully docked to the International Space Station (ISS). The docked Soyuz TMA-11M capsule carried the Olympic torch as part of the efforts to showcase next year`s games in Russia.
On Saturday, two Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky, who are already on the orbiting station, will take the torch on a historic first spacewalk. However, for safety reasons, the torch will not be lit.
Three crew members on board a Russian Soyuz, representing the US, Russia and Japan, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, yesterday.
The three person crew of Soyuz arrived at the ISS just six hours and 14 minutes after being launched, using a fast track rendezvous.
NASA Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio, Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency took with them the Olympic torch that will be used to light the Olympic flame at Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia, to mark the start of the 2014 Winter Games.
The arrival of Mastracchio, Tyurin and Wakata brings the station`s crew complement to nine. This is the first time since October 2009 that nine people have served together aboard the space station, NASA said.
The crew will return to its normal complement of six on November 10, when Expedition 37 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, Karen Nyberg of NASA, and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency return to Earth.
After their departure, Expedition 38 will begin with Kotov of Roscosmos, who already is aboard, at the helm.
Some of the cargo flown aboard the Soyuz will be used in ongoing or planned research investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory, the US space agency said.
The cargo includes questionnaires for a space headaches investigation that crew members will complete to provide in-flight data about the prevalence and characteristics of headaches they may experience in micro-gravity.
Other cargo includes hardware for an investigation looking at the impact of space travel on the immune system and on human microbiomes, which are microbes living in and on the human body.
Another delivery will contribute to an investigation known as Sarcolab, which studies the skeletal muscle fibres of station crew members.
The torch returning home with Expedition 37 will light the flame at the opening of the games.