CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Two American astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut moved into the international space station on Saturday, settling in for a half-year stay.
The three men arrived aboard space shuttle Endeavour the day before, but did not have time to trade places with the space station crew that has been on board since August.
The new residents' formfitting seat liners for the lifeboat had to be carried over and installed, and their spacesuits tucked away, before they could call space station Alpha home.
Russian Yuri Onufrienko couldn't wait to take over as space station commander from American Frank Culbertson. The cosmonaut kept peeking through a small window before the hatch finally swung open between the docked spacecraft on Friday evening, and he said he was ready to get to work.
Onufrienko will remain on board until May, along with astronauts Daniel Bursch and Carl Walz.
As gear moved back and forth across the threshold, Endeavour's astronauts used the ship's robot arm to lift an Italian-built cargo carrier from the shuttle and attach it to the station. "Good job," Mission Control radioed.
The carrier, named Raffaello, is loaded with 3 tons of food, clothes, science experiments and spare parts. Once emptied, it will be filled with dirty laundry, trash and used equipment and put back on Endeavour for the ride home.
The space station's new residents also packed some personal items, reflecting their hobbies. Onufrienko, a fisherman, took material to tie flies. Bursch has weaving material to make small baskets, while Walz has a five-octave keyboard that he calls a "psychological support device."
Walz said the keyboard has a learn-to-play function, so even nonmusical astronauts can use it. The space station already has a trumpet and guitar on board. (Culbertson is the trumpeter.)
By the time Culbertson and his Russian crewmates, Mikhail Tyurin and Vladimir Dezhurov, return to Earth in another week, they will have spent 128 days in space. That may stretch to 129 if Endeavour's astronauts can conserve enough power to spend an extra day at the space station.