BAIKONUR, November 7 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft carrying a three-man crew and a symbolic torch for next year's Sochi Winter Olympic Games on Thursday docked with the International Space Station.
“The docking was carried out on schedule in automatic mode,” a spokesman for Russia’s Roscosmos space agency told RIA Novosti.
The hatches between the Soyuz TMA-11M and the ISS opened at about 04:40 pm Moscow time (12:40 GMT) and the new crew members floated into the station.
Rossiya 24 television showed the smiling nine-member crew passing around the unlit Olympic torch in a live broadcast from the ISS.
A Soyuz-FG rocket and the Soyuz-TMA capsule with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin of Russia, NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio and JAXA astronaut Koici Wakata blasted off from the Russian-leased Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan some six hours ago.
The arrival of the Soyuz TMA-11M takes the number of people on the ISS to nine for the first time since October 2009 without the US shuttle, which was definitively retired in the middle of 2011.
Russian cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin, Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky, NASA astronauts Karen Nyberg and Michael Hopkins, as well as European astronaut Luca Parmitano are currently working on board the orbital outpost.
Russian cosmonauts Kotov and Ryazansky are scheduled to take the Olympic torch on a spacewalk on Saturday.
The torch will remain at the orbital station for five days. It is due to be brought back to the Earth by Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano, who will depart the ISS on board the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft on November 11.
During their 190-day mission on board the ISS, the incoming space station crew will oversee the docking of a Russian MLM module, unload several Progress space freighters, attach a European robotic arm to the Russian segment of the station and carry out a variety of scientific experiments.
Updates with hatch opening and crew members getting inside the station in paras 3-4.