Space Station Crew Takes Brief Trip Aboard Soyuz Spacecraft

Space Station Crew Takes Brief Trip Aboard Soyuz Spacecraft
ISS Expedition 12 commander Bill McArthur and flight engineer Valery Tokarev flew their Soyuz TMA-7 spacecraft about 45 feet (13 meters) during a brief trip to move the spacecraft to a new docking port. (Image credit: NASA/JSC.)

Twoastronauts working aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took a shorttrip early Friday during a relocation flight aboard their Russian-built Soyuzspacecraft.

Clad intheir Sokol spacesuits, ISS Expedition12 commander Bill McArthur and flight engineer Valery Tokarev successfully movedtheir Soyuz TMA-7 spacecraft to a new docking port to free up a Russian-builtairlock for an upcoming spacewalk.

Tokarevcommanded the 19-minute Soyuz flight, which began at the Pirs dockingcompartment at 3:46 a.m. EST (0846 GMT) while the ISS flew 220 miles (354kilometers) over the South Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South America.

"Okay, we'removing along," Tokarev said as the Soyuz pulled away from the ISS.

The twoastronauts moved the Soyuz spacecraft about 45 feet (13 meters) during theflight and docked the spacecraft at a berth outside the Russian-built Zaryacontrol module at 4:05 a.m. EST (0905 GMT) while passing over Northern Africa'sSahara Desert.

"Everythinglooks great," Tokarev said.

Both theISS and Soyuz vehicles flew about 5,500 miles (8,851 kilometers) across Earthduring the short flight.

The Soyuzrelocation clears the Pirs docking compartment for the Expedition 12 crew's secondspacewalk, during which McArthur and Tokarev will don Russian Orlan spacesuitsto work outside the ISS.

Originallyset for Dec. 7, the spacewalk will likely be rescheduled to late January orearly February to ease a rather packed month of work for McArthur and Tokarevin December, NASA officials said. The two astronauts are set to discard theunmanned cargo ship Progress19 from its berth at the aft end of the station's Zvezda service module onDec. 20 to make way for its replacement - Progress 20 - set to dock there onDec. 23, they added.

Russia'sFederal Space Agency, which Tokarev represents aboard the ISS, will launch theProgress 20 supply ship from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Dec. 21, NASAofficials said.

Duringtoday's spaceflight, McArthur and Tokarev left the ISS in an unmannedconfiguration, with many systems controlled from the ground, as a precautionarymeasure in case their spacecraft was unable to redock properly.

Their SoyuzTMA-7 spacecraft will remain at its Zarya port for the remainder of the astronauts'six-month mission. McArthur and Tokarev arrivedat the ISS aboard the spacecraft with U.S. space tourist GregoryOlsen on Oct. 3, 2005.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.