Russian manned spacecraft docks with ISS: official

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A newly-modernized Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying three astronauts on Sunday docked with the International Space Station (ISS) to double its crew to six, mission control said.

"Capture and docking confirmed. The ISS crew has doubled in size," mission control said, confirming the docking at 4:01 am Moscow time (0001 GMT).

Spokesmen for mission control in Moscow Valery Lydin told the Interfax news agency that docking had taken place automatically and the astronauts would open the hatches and enter the ISS itself three hours after docking.

The Soyuz TMA-M spacecraft is a modernised version of the ship used by Russia to put humans into the space and the first of a new series to have fully digital systems.

The crew includes one of Russia's most experience spacemen, Alexander Kaleri, whose first mission to space was in in March 1992 just after the fall of the Soviet Union to the now defunct Russian space station Mir.

Kaleri has already made four space flights, logging up 610 days in space and almost 24 hours of spacewalks, his last trip an October 2003 mission to the International Space Station.

Joining him are American Scott Kelly, who has made two spaceflights and Oleg Skripochka, who is making his first space flight. They had blasted off early on Friday from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

On board the ISS, where they will spend the next five months, they will join Americans Douglas Wheelock and Shannon Walker as well as Russian Fyodor Yurchikhin.

© 2010 AFP

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