Space Station Crew Takes Short Soyuz Trip

Space Station Crew Takes Short Soyuz Trip
The Expedition 15 crew's Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft is backdropped by a bright blue Earth during a short flight outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Sept. 27, 2007. (Image credit: NASA TV.)

Threeastronauts living aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took a short tripThursday to move their Russian-built lifeboat to a new parking spot.

ISSExpedition 15 commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineers Oleg Kotov andClayton Anderson spent only 20 minutes flying their Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraftbetween docking ports, but the successful move primed the station for theOctober arrivalof its next crew.

"Nicework," Anderson told Kotov, who commanded the brief Soyuz flight, afterthe orbital hop.

The shortSoyuz spaceflight clears the space station's Earth-facing Zarya docking port toreceive a new Russian spaceship on Oct. 12. That spacecraft, Soyuz TMA-11, willferry the station's newExpedition 16 crew and Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor --Malaysia's first astronaut -- to the ISS after an Oct. 10 launch from BaikonurCosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Kotovundocked the 24-foot (7.3-meter) long Soyuz TMA-10 from its Zarya berth at 3:27p.m. EDT (1937 GMT) as the two spacecraft passed high above the southeastPacific Ocean. He deftly piloted the eight-ton Soyuz alonga graceful arc to the station's aft-mounted docking port on the end of theRussian-built Zvezda service module.

The twospacecraft reconnected at 3:47 p.m. EDT (1947 GMT) as they flew 211 miles (339 kilometers)above western Africa.

"Congratulations,"radioed Russia's Mission Control Center, located just outside Moscow, after thesuccessful docking.

Long hoursahead

But theExpedition 15 astronauts still have a long way to go before completing whatwill ultimately be a 21-hour work day.

Thespaceflyers are expected to reenter the station at about 6:55 p.m. EDT (2255GMT) tonight, then reopen hatches between the outpost's modules and power upits space toilet, life support and other systems. The Expedition 15 astronautsclosed the hatches and powered down some systems as a precaution against the chancethat their Soyuz spacecraft would not be able redock with the ISS, forcing the crewto return to Earth early, NASA said.

Yurchikhinand his crew are not expected to completely reactivate the space station untilabout 8:55 p.m. EDT (0055 Sept. 28 GMT). After taking time out for dinner andother activities, the Expedition 15 crew will go to sleep at 2:00 a.m. EDT (0600GMT) early Friday, NASA said.

Spacestation mission managers have given the crew some time off Friday and a relaxedweekend schedule to allow time for rest, NASA said.

Yurchikhinand Kotov are nearing the end of a six-month tour aboard the ISS. They willhand over control of the station to Expedition16 commander Peggy Whitson, of NASA, and flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko,of Russia, before returning to Earth with Shukor on Oct. 21. Andersonwill stay aboard to join the Expedition 16 crew for the first few weeks of itssix-month mission.

As the ISSastronauts complete their Soyuz relocation tasks in Earth orbit, Russian flightcontrollers are preparing for the Friday morning retraction of two older solararrays reaching out from the station's Zarya module.

Retractingthe solar arrays will provide clearance for a set of ISS radiators that will beunfurled later this year, mission managers have said.


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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.