As­tro­nauts dock with space sta­tion

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - WORLD NEWS - The Associated Press

BAIKONUR, Kaza­khstan — A Soyuz space cap­sule on Thurs­day safely de­liv­ered an Amer­i­can as­tro­naut making his first space flight and a vet­eran Rus­sian cos­mo­naut to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion.

NASA’s Jack Fis­cher and Rus­sia’s Fy­o­dor Yurchikhin lifted off from the Rus­sia-leased launch fa­cil­ity in Kaza­khstan at 1:13 p.m. lo­cal time Thurs­day. They reached or­bit about nine min­utes later, a mo­ment il­lus­trated when a stuffed white dog toy hang­ing from a string in the cap­sule be­gan to float.

About six hours later, they docked at the or­bit­ing out­post.

NASA’s Peggy Whit­son, the crew’s com­man­der, Rus­sia’s Oleg Novit­skiy and France’s Thomas Pes­quet greeted Fis­cher and Yurchikhin with cheers and hugs. They floated into the sta­tion two hours af­ter dock­ing.

Yurchikhin, making his fifth space flight, and Fis­cher, who is there for the first time, talked to fam­ily and friends at the Baikonur fa­cil­ity who were watch­ing the launch there.

Fis­cher’s wife thanked him for what she said was “the most un­ex­pected bou­quet of flow­ers” that she re­ceived as he was launch­ing into space. Fis­cher told his wife she had vet­eran cos­mo­naut Yurchikhin to thank for that.

“I learnt from the mas­ter. Fy­o­dor told me I should be do­ing that,” he said.

Wil­son, who on a pre­vi­ous mis­sion be­came the first woman to command the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion, will break the U.S. record for the most cu­mu­la­tive time in space on Mon­day. Jef­frey Wil­liams cur­rently holds the 534-day record. Whit­son, 57, is sched­uled to re­turn to Earth in Septem­ber.

Fis­cher and Yurchikhin will spend more than four months aboard the space sta­tion be­fore also re­turn­ing to Earth in Septem­ber.

Mean­while, China on Thurs­day launched its first un­manned cargo space­craft on a mis­sion to dock with China’s space sta­tion, mark­ing fur­ther progress in the am­bi­tious Chi­nese space pro­gram.

The Tianzhou 1 blasted off at 7:41 p.m. lo­cal time atop a lat­est-gen­er­a­tion Long March 7 rocket from China’s new­est space­craft launch site, Wen­chang, on the is­land prov­ince of Hainan.

It is pro­grammed to con­duct sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments af­ter reach­ing the now-crew­less Tian­gong 2, China’s sec­ond space sta­tion. A pair of Chi­nese as­tro­nauts spent 30 days on board the sta­tion last year.

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