Astronauts dock with space station
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.