The International Space Station resumed sustained six crew operations for the first time in more than three months on Friday, with the arrival of the multi-national 29 Soyuz crew.
The two spacecraft linked at 10:19 a.m., EST, as they sailed 240 miles over southern Russia.
A busy agenda awaits the newcomers, Soyuz commander Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Don Pettit and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers of The Netherlands. Their Soyuz TMA-OM3 spacecraft was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan early Wednesday.
They were greeted by Expedition 30 station commander Dan Burbank, of NASA, and Russian flight engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, who were marking their 40th day on the orbiting science laboratory.
“It’s so great to have the International Space Station back in operations and utilization with all six crew members,” said William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and space operations.
“This will be an exciting period for the crew," said Gerstenmaier, who led a NASA delegation to Russia for the Soyuz launch and docking. "They have many activities in the coming months and a very busy science program.”
Kononenko, Pettit and Kuipers have trained for a five month mission that is scheduled to include the berthing of the first U. S. commercial re-supply craft, the SpaceX Dragon in February; the arrival of Russian and European cargo capsules in late January and March; as well as a Russian spacewalk in February.
Nearly 200 science experiments are on the agenda as well.
Station operations were reduced from six to three persons in mid-September as the Russian federal space agency addressed the Aug. 24 third stage failure of a Soyuz U launcher with a Progress re-supply craft bound for the station. The station returned to six crew members for several days in late November to accommodate the arrival of Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin and a brief handover with the last of the three Expedition 29 crew members.