Spacecraft docks at orbiting Space Station

MOSCOW (AP) — A Soyuz capsule carrying three astronauts successfully docked with the International Space Station early Thursday, bringing the size of the crew at the orbiting outpost to six.

Michael Hopkins of the United States and Russians Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky traveled six hours in the capsule before linking up with the space station’s Russian Poisk research module at 06.45 a.m. Moscow time (0245GMT).

The new crew, which blasted off from the Russian-leased Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan late last night, are joining cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, NASA’s Karen Nyberg and Italy’s Luca Parmitano who has been on the station since May and will be returning to Earth in November.

The incoming crew’s six-month mission will include a spacewalk with the Olympic torch.

Kotov and Ryazansky will have the honor of taking the Olympic torch into open space in November as part of the relay of the Olympic flame ahead of the Winter Games being held in Russia’s Sochi in February. The torch will not be lit however, because of safety concerns and will only arrive at the station in November with the next crew.

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