After quick trip, astronauts start new mission on space station

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins and 2 cosmonauts join space station crew

After a six-hour journey and four orbits around the Earth, a NASA astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts today joined the team on the International Space Station.

Traveling onboard a Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft, NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins, along with Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency rendezvoused and docked with the space station at 10:45 p.m. ET Wednesday.

At 12:34 a.m. today, the hatches between the spacecraft and the space station were opened and the three officially joined the crew of the orbiting station.

Hopkins, Ryazanskiy and Kotov lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:58 p.m. ET Wednesday.

Trips to the space station have become faster over the past several months because of new rendezvous techniques that had been tested in three unpiloted Russian cargo spacecrafts.

Historically, it has taken the Russian spacecraft, as well as NASA's space shuttles, two days to reach the space station. However, in March, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying one astronaut and two cosmonauts, successfully rendezvoused and docked with the International Space Station in record-breaking time -- less than six hours.

Since then, several flights, carrying both cargo and astronauts have made the speedier trip.

According to NASA, Kotov, Hopkins and Ryazanskiy will stay on the space station for five and a half months. They are due to return home in March, traveling in the same Soyuz spacecraft in which they arrived.

This video shows the Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft carrying a new trio of Expedition 37 crew members as it approaches and docks with the International Space Station. (Video: NASA TV)

This article, After quick trip, astronauts start new mission on space station, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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