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New Crew Docks With Space Station
The Soyuz spacecraft with the 13th International Space Station crew, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and NASA Science Officer Jeffrey Williams, docked with the orbiting laboratory at 11:19 p.m. EST Friday.

With them was Marcos Pontes, the first Brazilian astronaut to go into space. Flying under a contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) he will spend about eight days on the station.

Expedition 13 arrives at the stationImage at right: The Soyuz spacecraft (at center) carrying Expedition 13 is shown just moments after docking to the space station. Photo Credit: NASA TV

They launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9:30 p.m. EST Wednesday.

Pontes will return to Earth with the Expedition 12 crew, Commander Bill McArthur and Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev. They have been on the orbiting laboratory since October.

They are scheduled to undock April 8 in the Soyuz that brought them to the station. Landing is scheduled for 7:46 p.m. EDT that day in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

Vinogradov is a veteran of a 198-day mission aboard the Russian space station Mir, where he did five spacewalks. Williams, an Army colonel, flew on STS-101 in May 2000. He did one spacewalk during that flight to the station.

After opening hatches between the Soyuz and the station and the exchange of greetings, the first item on the new arrivals' agenda was a safety briefing by the E12 crew. In extensive handover briefings during their eight days together, they will get training on systems and experiments on the station and on the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

Joining them during their stay on the station will be Thomas Reiter, a European Space Agency astronaut from Germany, also flying under a Roscosmos contract. He is scheduled to come to the station on Discovery's STS-121 mission, set for no earlier than July. Reiter is to be the first non-Russian, non-U.S. long-duration crewmember on station. He will bring the station crew back to three for the first time since May 2003, in the aftermath of the Columbia accident.

Reiter will remain on the orbiting laboratory during the first part of Expedition 14. That will provide a continuity that should improve handoffs from one increment crew to another. The third crewmember should dramatically increase crew time available for science activities.

E13 crewmembers are scheduled to do two spacewalks. One will be by Williams and Reiter in U.S. spacesuits and the other by Vinogradov and Williams in Russian spacesuits.