KOROLYOV, Moscow Region, March 28 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian Soyuz spacecraft automatically docked with the International Space Station after a two-day delay early Friday morning, delivering three new crew members to the orbiting outpost, Russia's mission control center told RIA Novosti.
The Soyuz TMA-12M launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, carrying two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut. The craft was originally scheduled to complete an express six-hour flight path to the station, a route only recently approved in an effort to reduce the time astronauts must spend in the cramped vehicle.
A glitch in the ship's attitude control systems led managers to postpone the docking by two days as a precautionary measure, reverting to the normal rendezvous path used safely dozens of times in the past.
On Friday, the Soyuz docked with the Russian segment of the station in a completely automated mode with no need for piloted intervention. After equalizing pressure, cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev along with NASA astronaut Steven Swanson entered the station to begin a six-month stay.
The new crew is to conduct an extensive scientific program aboard the station, in addition to maintaining a space blog of their daily activities and overseeing the arrival of several resupply vehicles.
The Russian Soyuz rocket and spacecraft, widely considered the most reliable manned space launch system in history, are currently the only means of reaching the station following the retirement of the US space shuttle three years ago.