A three-person crew successfully reached the International Space Station on Wednesday aboard a Russian rocket after the fastest ever journey from Earth of just over three hours.
The Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft with Russian cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov and US astronaut Kathleen Rubins docked to the Rassvet module of the ISS at 11:48 a.m. Moscow time.
Typically it takes about six hours for a Soyuz spacecraft to chase down the International Space Station, and the Soyuz must complete about four orbits around the Earth.
But the Soyuz MS-17 made it in only two orbits, making it the first crewed Soyuz spacecraft to try the “fast-track” rendezvous method.
By coincidence, the rocket launched on Rubins’ birthday (she turned 42), prompting congratulations from Russian flight controllers at the Roscosmos agency’s Mission Control.
The mission of the Soyuz space craft carrying two Russian cosmonauts and one NASA astronaut was of immense importance to Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, coming as the SpaceX programme relaunches crewed spaceflight from the United States and ignites fresh talk of a space race between the two countries.
Now the orbital outpost’s crew will check the air tightness of the docking, following which the air pressure will be leveled off between the manned spacecraft and the ISS.