After a picture-perfect launch from Kazakhstan and a problem-free rendezvous, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked at the International Space Station Friday, boosting the lab’s crew back to six and, for the first time, giving NASA and the European Space Agency four astronauts devoted to research in the U.S. segment of the complex.
With commander Sergey Ryazanskiy monitoring an automated approach, flanked on his left by NASA flight engineer Randy Bresnik and on the right by Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli, the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft docked at the Earth-facing Rassvet module at 5:54 p.m. ET.
The linkup came about six hours after the crew blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, at 11:41:12 a.m., departing from the same pad that was used to launch Sputnik 60 years ago and Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, in 1961.
Nearly two hours after docking, after verifying an airtight seal between the space station and the Soyuz, hatches were opened and Expedition 52 commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, flight engineer Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson, NASA’s most experienced astronaut, welcomed their new crewmates aboard with hugs and handshakes.
The six-member crew then floated into the Russian Zvezda module for a traditional post-docking video call to family and friends back at the launch site. NASA’s acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, congratulated the crew on a spectacular launch and then passed the phone to the crew’s families.
“Hi, Wyatt. What’d you think of that rocket launch?” Bresnik asked his young son.
“It was bright and loud. And interesting.”
“Well, maybe someday you’ll get a chance to ride on one,” Bresnik replied.
“That would be nice,” Wyatt said. “I just want to tell you I love you, and we’ll miss you.”
After speaking with daughter Abigail, who managed a shy “hi, poppa,” and his father, Albert, Bresnik thanked his wife Rebecca for “the amazing love and support you’ve given me the last two years to get to this point. I hope we can make you proud while I’m up here.”
He then took a moment to thank the Russian engineers who assembled the Soyuz rocket and spacecraft, saying “that was the most amazing, smooth rocket…