Multinational crew arrives at space station

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 09, 2011 6:19 PM

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - A Russian Soyuz capsule with a three-man multinational crew arrived at the International Space Station on Thursday to begin a six-month mission that will include hosting NASA's final space shuttle crew.

After a two-day journey, the Soyuz slipped into a docking port on the Russian side of the orbital outpost at 5:18 p.m. EDT (2118 GMT) as the spacecraft sailed 218 miles above Rio de Janeiro.

The arrival of cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, NASA astronaut Mike Fossum and Japan's Satoshi Furukawa brings the resident station crew back up to its full staff of six. They join station commander Andrey Borisenko, cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev and NASA's Ron Garan, who have been aboard the station since April 6.

The previous crew, which included Italy's Paolo Nespoli, completed a six-month stint while shuttle Endeavour was visiting the station last month to deliver the $2 Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle detector and spare parts.

The station is being prepared for a final shuttle mission in July. Shuttle Atlantis is due to arrive July 10 for an eight-day stay.

The 135th and final space mission will be devoted to delivering a year's worth of supplies to the outpost.

"It's going to be an extremely busy four weeks (for the station crew) until the launch of Atlantis," NASA mission commentator Rob Navias said.

The U.S. space agency intends to turn over cargo runs to the station to commercial firms, but the extra supplies will tide over the station in case of delays.

During Atlantis' stay, Fossum, a veteran of two previous shuttle flights, will partner with Garan for a spacewalk to pack up a broken coolant pump for return to Earth.

Volkov, the son of a cosmonaut and former station commander, returns for a second stint aboard the outpost. Furukawa, a rookie, is a former flight surgeon and the third astronaut from Japan to live on the station.

(Editing by Tom Brown and Eric Walsh)