Several hours after a successful docking, the hatch of the Soyuz opened and the three men on board the historic flight successfully entered the International Space Station, making the journey in world-record time.
Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin, Pavel Vinogradov and NASA
astronaut Chris Cassidy have arrived at the station in just
six hours compared to the usual two-day voyage, after they launched
at 16:43 EDT from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The journey, equivalent to four orbits of Earth, has been recently tested by three unmanned cargo spacecraft flights before clearing Soyuz for a the short-cut journey.
"The four-orbit rendezvous has the advantage of a very short period of time from launch to docking," Mike Suffredini, NASA's International Space Station program manager, said of the mission."It reduces the amount of time the crew has to spend in a small environment before they get to ISS," quotes space.com
The launch requires precision timing and a series of maneuvering burns to reach the ISS. The usual trip to the station unfolds over 34 orbits.
“At first everybody was really apprehensive about it, but later on our ballistic specialists calculated the possibility, looked at the rocket and verified the capabilities of the Soyuz (capsule) which now has a digital command and control system and an onboard computer that can do pretty much anything,” commander Pavel Vinogradov, told reporters at a pre-launch press conference.
“In reality, it’s not very far to the space station, although with the velocities we’re talking about, it’s quite an achievement,” deputy station program manager Kirk Shireman was quoted by Discovery News.
Shorter flight time, the crew believes, will make them less fatigued and improve the performance of biomedical experiments.
“The adaptation of that I think is a little bit different,” Cassidy said. “You’re really not truly adapting in that day and a half. Two days on the Soyuz, that same adaptation that you’ll have once you get to the space station just because it’s a different perspective for your brain to get its arms around,” Universe Today quoted.
“Within such a very short period of time, probably the ice cream will not melt,” Vinogradov joked.
Three men will join ISS Expedition 35 mission for some six-months. The current residents of the outpost are commander Chris Hadfield of Canada, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn.