Friday, December 23, 2011

Soyuz Closes In On Station For Holiday Docking

Three space travelers in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft are chasing down the International Space Station today in advance of a holiday season hook-up Friday at the orbital complex.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko will be at the controls as an automated docking system guides the Soyuz spacecraft and its crew -- which includes U.S. astronaut Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency -- to a berthing port on the station's Rassvet, or "Dawn," module.

Inside the station, Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov will be monitoring the spacecraft's final approach and will be able to take manual control of the docking if necessary. U.S. astronaut Dan Burbank will be watching on also.

The docking is scheduled at 10:22 a.m. EST. Live NASA TV coverage will begin here in The Flame Trench at 9:45 a.m. Check out the NASA TV box on the right for live coverage.

A series of post-docking leak-checks will be performed to ensure a tight seal between the station and the Soyuz. A hatch-opening and welcome ceremony is scheduled to begin about 1 p.m. Live coverage of that event will begin about 12:45 p.m. EST.

The arrival of the new trio will bring station staffing back to full strength. Staffing has been halved over much of the past four months as a result of an Aug. 24 Soyuz rocket failure, a subsequent investigation and return-to-flight activities.

Kononenko, Pettit and Kuipers launched at 8:16 a.m. EST Wednesday from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: The Associated Press image shows a Soyuz FG rocket boosting the Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft up and away from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Wednesday. Photo credit: AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky.

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