Note: Even as members of a House Science Committee were arguing about the who is responsible for America’s inability to launch its own astronauts, the crew of Expedition 39 made its delayed docking to ISS, bringing the station’s compliment back up to six.
A new trio of Expedition 39 flight engineers has arrived at the International Space Station after a two-day, 34-orbit trip. Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov was at the controls of the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft when it docked automatically to the Poisk docking compartment at 7:53 p.m. EDT. Skvortsov was flanked by Flight Engineers Steve Swanson and Oleg Artemyev during the two day flight.
The crew opened the hatches to the station at 10:35 p.m. after a series of leak and pressure checks between the two spacecraft before . The new station residents entered Poisk and greeted Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio of NASA and Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos.
After the welcoming ceremony and congratulatory words with family, friends and mission officials, the newly comprised crew conducted a mandatory safety orientation. All six crew members then will have an off-duty day Friday as they relax, having shifted their schedules to accommodate the busy launch and docking activities.
The original plan for the Soyuz to arrive at the station in just four orbits over six hours defaulted to the more traditional 34-orbit plan after the Soyuz spacecraft failed to conduct an engine firing early in the rendezvous sequence following launch to refine its orbit.
The Soyuz crew was safe the entire time as flight controllers replanned their approach and rendezvous. The two day launch-to-docking profile was the normal Soyuz mission profile used for years before Russian space officials began single-day launch to docking efforts in March 2013.
As is customary, Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev will have several days set aside to familiarize themselves with their new home in space. The new trio will also assist the veteran crewmates as they adjust to living and working in space for six months.
Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev are scheduled to return home in September as Expedition 40 crew members. They will officially become Expedition 40 when Expedition 39 crew members Wakata, Mastracchio and Tyurin end their mission and undock in their Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft in May for their return to Earth.