Christmascame a day late for astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS)with the successful Wednesday arrival of a Russian cargo ship bearing gifts andfresh supplies.
The unmannedProgress 27 space freighter arrived at the station?s Russian-built Pirs dockingcompartment after a three-day chase to catch up to the high-flying orbitallaboratory.
?Everythingis nominal,? said veteran cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, an Expedition 16 flightengineer aboard the ISS, as the cargo ship neared the outpost. ?Okay, we feelthe contact.?
Malenchenkostood ready to take remote control of Progress 27 should its automated systemsfail during today?s docking. But the cargo ship smoothly moored itself to itsPirs port at 3:14 a.m. EST (0814 GMT) as both spacecraft flew about 200 miles(321 kilometers) above southern Europe.
Tuckedaboard the Progress 27 are about 2.5 tons of propellant, oxygen, fresh fruit,equipment and other vital supplies for the station?s three-astronaut crew. Includedin that cargo are Christmas presents for Expedition16 commander Peggy Whitson and flight engineer Dan Tani, as well as birthdaygifts for Malenchenko, who turned 46 on Saturday.
"These include selected concerts of Vladimir Vinokur, video congratulations from home and from his relatives and friends," Russia's Interfax News Agency quoted Federal Space Agency as saying. Copies of Malenchenko's favorite films and television programs were also included, Interfax reported.
Theastronauts are expected to open the hatches between the ISS and Progress 27 atabout 6:30 a.m. EST (1130 GMT).
Progress 27launchedearly Sunday from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with 2,921 pounds(1,325 kilograms) of dry cargo stored aboard. About 110 pounds (50 kilograms)of oxygen and 1,918 pounds (870 kilograms) of rocket propellant were alsopacked inside the cargo ship, NASA said.
Whitson hassaid the cargo ship is also delivering fresh tomatoes and onions, fixings will lendthemselves to a special dinner of ?space hamburgers? once she and her crewmatesbegin unloading Progress 27.
?Ourstandard menu no longer has re-hydratable hamburger patties in it, so I hadrequested, in advance, to have patties and dinner rolls in my preference foods,?Whitson wrote in a recent Expedition 16 journal entry.
Whitsondreamed up her personal version of orbital hamburgers during her Expedition 5mission to the ISS in 2002. An assortment of handy, and spicy, sauces to holdthe concoction together was a must when she recreated them last month for herExpedition 16 crewmates.
?Spacehamburgers went over pretty well, because they were different than the standardstuff,? Whitson wrote. ?But there is some assembly required?using the [sauces] ofchoice to hold them together!?
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