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Expedition 20 Crew Docks with Space Station
Expedition 20 welcome ceremony

Image above: The Expedition 20 crew holds a welcome ceremony in the Zvezda service module. Credit: NASA TV

Flight Engineers Roman Romanenko, Frank De Winne and Robert Thirsk of the 20th International Space Station crew docked their Soyuz TMA-15 to the International Space Station at 8:34 a.m. EDT Friday.

Hatches between the two spacecraft were opened at 10:14 a.m. A welcome ceremony and a safety briefing for the new arrivals followed.

The new crew launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:34 a.m. Wednesday to begin a six-month stay in space.

Expedition 20 will mark the start of six-person crew operations aboard the International Space Station. All five of the international partner agencies – NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) – will be represented on orbit for the first time.

Romanenko, a cosmonaut with Roscosmos, will serve as a flight engineer for Expeditions 20 and 21. He was selected as a test-cosmonaut candidate of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center Cosmonaut Office in December 1997. The son of veteran Cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko, he qualified as a test cosmonaut in November 1999.

De Winne, an ESA astronaut, will serve as a flight engineer for Expedition 20 and commander for Expedition 21. De Winne spent nine days aboard the station in 2002 as a member of the Odissea mission arriving on a new spacecraft, the Soyuz TMA-1, then leaving on an older Soyuz TM-34.

Expedition 20 arrives in a Soyuz TMA-15

Image above: The Soyuz TMA-15 carrying Expedition 20 is viewed several moments before docking to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA TV

Thirsk, a CSA astronaut, will serve as a flight engineer for Expeditions 20 and 21. In 1996, Thirsk flew as a payload specialist astronaut aboard space shuttle mission STS-78, the Life and Microgravity Spacelab mission.

Expedition 20 crew members will be welcomed by the Expedition 19 crew, Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineers Michael Barratt and Koichi Wakata.

Padalka, a colonel in the Russian Air Force, also will command the Expedition 20 mission and serve as Soyuz commander. He previously served as commander of Expedition 9 in 2004. During Padalka's first stay at the International Space Station, he performed four spacewalks.

Barratt also will serve as a flight engineer for Expedition 20. He served as lead crew surgeon for the first Expedition crew to the station from July 1998 until he was selected as an astronaut candidate.

In addition to serving as a flight engineer for Expeditions 18 and 19, Wakata will serve as a flight engineer for Expedition 20. Wakata is the first resident station crew member from JAXA. He will return to Earth with the STS-127 crew.