Three new crew, including U.S. grandfather chasing record, join ISS
The Russian spacecraft carrying the astronauts docked at 0309 GMT Saturday some 407 kilometers (253 miles) above the Pacific Ocean, off the western coast of Peru, according to the American space agency.
Just over two hours later, crewmates Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin of Russia, plus Jeff Williams, a U.S. grandfather of three who is a veteran of long-duration space missions, floated into the orbital outpost after hatches were opened to allow their entry.
"Welcome to @Space_Station! Hatches are opened and the crew onboard grows from 3 to 6 members," NASA tweeted.
According to NASA, the trio orbited the earth four times in their approximately six-hour journey to the ISS.
"Can't believe we just left the planet and we're here already," said Williams, in a call to friends and family gathered back on Earth, which was broadcast online by NASA TV.
By the end of his half-year trip aboard the ISS, Williams "will become the American with the most cumulative days in space—534," NASA said.
Williams is also now the first American to be a three-time, long-term ISS resident, the U.S. agency said.
The rocket took off in windy conditions from Russia's space base in Kazakhstan at 2126 GMT Friday.
The craft is decorated with a portrait of the first man in space, Soviet hero Yuri Gagarin, whose pioneering orbital flight was made nearly 55 years ago, on April 12, 1961. ■