Space station gets 3 new tenants from 3 countries

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Associated Press

Posted on June 30, 2011 at 5:23 PM

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.—It’s a full house again at the International Space Station.

A Russian capsule carrying three astronauts from three countries docked at the orbiting lab on Thursday. The linkup ended a two-day trip for the Soyuz spacecraft that launched from Kazakhstan.

The three new tenants join three others already on board, all of whom will be part of history when NASA flies the shuttle for the last time. Atlantis is set to deliver one last shuttle load of supplies to the space station next month; liftoff is scheduled for July 8. The mission will end 30 years of shuttle flight.

Shuttle Endeavour just ended a two-week space station visit.

Arriving Thursday for a five-month stay were American Michael

Fossum, Russian Sergey Volkov and Japanese Satoshi Furukawa. They join American Ronald Garan Jr. and Russians Andrey Borisenko, the commander, and Alexander Samokutyaev, who have been on board since April.

The rendezvous unfolded smoothly, despite a minor thruster problem with the Soyuz. The two craft came together nearly 220 miles above the Atlantic, northeast of Rio de Janeiro.

NASA’s chief of space operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, watched the docking from Russian Mission Control outside Moscow. In response to a journalist’s question, he said the first private space station delivery could come as early as November.

NASA is encouraging U.S. companies to take over cargo runs to the space station and, ultimately, provide rides for crews. In the meantime, American astronauts will continue to ride back and forth on Soyuz spacecraft at a cost of tens of millions of dollars a seat, as NASA turns its attention toward interplanetary travel.

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