Soyuz crew members Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos, Andreas Mogensen of ESA (European Space Agency) and Aidyn Aimbetov of the Kazakh Space Agency joined their Expedition 44 crewmates when the hatches between the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft and the International Space Station officially opened at 6:15 a.m. EDT. Expedition 44 Commander Gennady Padalka of Roscosmos, as well as Flight Engineers Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos, and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) welcomed the new crew members aboard their orbital home, marking the first time since 2013 that nine people have been aboard the orbiting laboratory.
"The docking was normal and on time," the Russian Mission Control said. "Luckily, there was no need for crew intervention in the automatic docking processes, nor a transition to teleoperator mode."
The crew will support several hundred experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science — research that impacts life on Earth.
The SoyuzTAM-18M with a new ISS crew blasted off from the Baikonur space site in Kazakhstan at 07:37 Moscow time on September 2.
It was the 500th launch from pad number one, from where the world’s first man in space Yuri Gagarin made his orbital flight on April 12, 1961 to usher in the era of manned space exploration.
The original plan was the spacecraft would dock with the ISS six hours after liftoff, but later a decision was made in favour of a safer, two-day approach procedure.
On its way to the ISS Soyuz TMA-18M on September 3 performed evasive action to dodge collision with a fragment of Japan’s space rocket, the federal space agency Roscosmos told TASS.
The trip enables Roscosmos to rotate a crew member and a Soyuz spacecraft. Volkov will remain aboard the station for the next six months, returning in March 2016 with one-year mission crew members Kelly and Kornienko in the Soyuz TMA-18M. Padalka, who launched in March with Kelly and Kornienko in the Soyuz TMA-16M, will return to Earth in that spacecraft on Sept. 11 with Mogensen and Aimbetov, leaving Kelly in command of Expedition 45. Lindgren, Kononenko and Yui will remain aboard the station until late December. Each Soyuz remains in orbit for about six months.