Space Express: Soyuz reaches ISS in record 6 hours
Moscow/New Delhi: It takes over nine hours to fly from New Delhi to London and eight more hours to reach New York – far more time than what Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft took to travel from the International Space Station on Friday.
Blasting off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Soyuz carried three men – two Russian cosmonauts and one American – to the ISS in just under six hours, as against the usual 50 hour journey from the earth to the space lab.
Chris Cassidy of the United States and Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin linked up with the space station's Russian Rassvet research module over the Pacific Ocean, just off Peru, at 04:35 GMT. About two hours passed before pressure equalised between the capsule and the station, allowing safe entrance.
The speedy journey to the space station was achieved by putting into motion a special manoeuvre which reduced the usual orbiting of Earth 30 times by the spacecraft to just four.
Dubbed by NASA's official television commentator as a "chase into space" – was made possible by launching the Soyuz just after the ISS passes overhead in orbit.
After reaching orbit, the Soyuz then had just over 1,000 miles to make up to catch up with the ISS – speeded up by newly-improved thrusters.
The new manoeuvre was tested successfully by three Russian Progress cargo ships, unmanned versions of the Soyuz used to ferry supplies to the space station.
The incoming crew will spend five months in space before returning to Earth.
"Hey, is anyone home?" joked Vinogradov as he floated into the station.
Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin were greeted with cheers and hugs by American Tom Mashburn, Russian Roman Romanenko and Canadian Chris Hadfield, who have been at the station since December.
The astronauts then had a brief session with Mission Control outside Moscow, talking with friends and relatives. "You're such a star! I'm really proud of you!" Misurkin's tearful mother said. The 35-year-old Russian is on his first flight into space.