The International Space Station crewmembers took a short ride this morning as they flew their Soyuz TMA-5 spacecraft from one docking port to another to pave the way for two spacewalks next year.
Having configured Station systems for autonomous operation, Expedition 10 Flight Engineer and Soyuz Commander Salizhan Sharipov and Expedition Commander Leroy Chiao sent the command to undock the craft from the Station's Pirs Docking Compartment at 3:29 a.m. Central time (929 GMT) as they flew 225 miles over the southern Atlantic Ocean. Physical separation of the two craft occurred three minutes later.
Sharipov, seated in the center seat of the Soyuz' descent module compartment, and Chiao seated to his left, backed the capsule away from the Station to a distance of about 30 meters (98 feet). They then commanded the Soyuz to fly laterally along the Station about 14 meters (45 feet) before rotating the Soyuz 135 degrees to align it with the earthward-facing docking port on the adjacent Zarya module. The vehicle was held in position for eight minutes of stationkeeping, ensuring correct alignment of the docking mechanisms before the crew began the final approach toward the Station.
Docking occurred at 3:53 a.m. Central time (0953 GMT) as the Soyuz and the Station passed over western Asia. Within minutes, hooks and latches engaged between the Soyuz and Zarya to link the return vehicle and the Station firmly together. After a series of leak checks, the crew planned to reenter the Station to begin reconfiguring Station operating systems for normal operations.
The repositioning of the Soyuz cleared Pirs, which also serves as an airlock, for a pair of spacewalks by Chiao and Sharipov early next year.
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