The Russian Soyuz spacecraft transports a crew of 3 to the International Space Station

Two days after launch, a Russian Soyuz-crewed ferry ship caught up with the International Space Station on Monday and moved in for a picture-perfect docking, bringing two short-term crew members and a NASA astronaut to begin a six-month stay in orbit.

With Soyuz MS-25/71S commander Oleg Novitsky, Belarusian guest pilot Marina Vasilevskaya and NASA veteran Tracy Dyson monitoring the robotic approach, the spacecraft slid off the bottom and docked into the Earth-facing Preshal module at 11:03 a.m. EDT.

The Soyuz MS-25/71S spacecraft flies over Croatia on Monday on its final approach to the International Space Station. On board: veteran astronaut Oleg Novitsky, Belarusian guest Marina Vasilevskaya, and NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson.

NASA TV


After a leak check to verify a tight structural seal, the hatches were opened and Soyuz crew He flew to the station and was greeted by ISS Commander Oleg Kononenko, astronauts Nikolai Chub and Alexander Grebenkin, along with NASA astronauts Loral O'Hara, Matthew Dominic, Michael Barratt, and Janet Epps.

Vasilievskaya (blue flight suit, left) waves to the camera moments after boarding the International Space Station. O'Hara floats next to her at top left with Janet Epps at bottom left.

NASA TV


“Marina, you have opened the door for Belarus to be in space,” the Russian controller broadcast on the radio from Moscow. “So, you have a great and safe job. Enjoy your work, your vacation. We are very proud of you. The entire people of Belarus are proud of you.”

“I am very happy that Belarus arrived safe and sound at the International Space Station,” Vasilevskaya, smiling broadly, said through a translator.

“It took a couple of days, but we're in great spirits, and I'm very happy that it worked out the way it did. I loved every aspect of it. … We're very happy with your support. It makes me very happy and brings us strength.”

NASA's Mission Control team congratulated Nowitzki on his safe return “to your second home. We are happy to see you back on the station.”

“Tracy, it's so wonderful to see your smiling face again on the International Space Station,” said Costa Mavridis, NASA's spacecraft liaison. “Everyone here in Houston, including your family and friends in the viewing room, beam with pride as they watch the screen.”

The station's 10-person crew gathered for a short video call with Russia's mission control center near Moscow. Back row (from left to right): Nikolai Chub, Alexander Grebenkin, Mike Barratt, Oleg Kononenko, Matthew Dominic, Loral O'Hara. Front row (left to right): Tracy Dyson, Oleg Novitsky, Marina Vasilevskaya, Janet Epps.

NASA TV


It was Kononenko, Chubb and O'Hara It was launched last September On board the ferry ship Soyuz MS-24/70S as Dominic, Barratt, Epps and Grebenkin arrive Advance this month Aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon.

Dyson will replace O'Hara, who will return to Earth on April 6 with Novitsky and Vasilevskaya aboard the older MS-24/70S spacecraft that carried her into orbit last year. Dyson will return home next September with Kononenko and Chubb using the MS-25/71S spacecraft delivered by Nowitzki.

The Soyuz swap was required because Kononenko and Chub were in the middle of a year-long stay aboard the station, and Russian crew ships are not certified for voyages lasting longer than six months.

Following the departure of Novitsky, Vasilevskaya and O'Hara, NASA postings at the station will continue moving forward with ongoing research and preparations for the early May arrival of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, the first test flight of a NASA-sponsored replacement for SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft. .

After two unmanned test flights and extensive work to correct software problems and unexpected problems with worn propulsion system valves, NASA and Boeing officials say the spacecraft is finally ready to transport astronauts to and from the station.

An artist's impression of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft on its final approach to the International Space Station. The Starliner's first test flight is scheduled for early May.

NASA


For the upcoming “Crew Flight Test,” astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita Williams will test the ship's automated and manual control systems during the flight to and from the station, spending about 10 days aboard the outpost.

If the flight goes well, the Starliner will be certified for use on future ISS crew rotation missions, rotating with SpaceX's Crew Dragon and providing NASA with redundancy when it comes to launching astronauts to and from the space station.

“Today, all of our Crew Dragons are launched on (SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets),” space station program manager Dana Weigel said. “If there was a problem with an F9, for example, and we had to stop for a while… if we had another vehicle we could continue flying.”

This would help ensure a permanent American presence aboard the space station.

“That's why, when we talk about having multiple providers, it's very important for us to have that continuous capability,” Weigel said.

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