Russian Craft Docks With International Space Station

Published October 12, 2007

| Associated Press

A Soyuz craft carrying the international space station's first female commander and Malaysia's first space traveler docked Friday at the orbital outpost.

The Soyuz craft docked on schedule at 10:50 a.m. EDT on automatic pilot, Russian Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin said.

It carried the station's new American commander, astronaut Peggy Whitson, as well as veteran Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, a Malaysian physician.

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"Everything is great," Malenchenko told Mission Control shortly after the docking, which took place about 220 miles above the Earth.

A NASA commentator called it "flawless."

After checking the seals between the Soyuz and the station's Zarya module, a crew member on the station was to open a hatch about 60 to 90 minutes after the docking and the three were to board the station, Lyndin said.

Sheikh Muszaphar, 35, has said his roughly 10-day stay on the station should inspire his southeast Asian nation, and Muslims all over the world.

The $25 million agreement for a Malaysian astronaut to fly to space was negotiated in 2003 along with a $900 million deal for Malaysia to buy 18 Russian fighter jets.

Whitson, 47, of Beaconsfield, Iowa, is making her second trip to the station and will become its first female commander.

She and Malenchenko will replace two of the station's current crew, cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov, who are slated to return to Earth along with Sheikh Muszaphar on Oct. 21 in a Soyuz capsule.

Whitson and Malenchenko, 45, who is on his second voyage to the station and who commanded Russia's Mir space station more than a decade ago, are to be joined later this month by Daniel Tani, who is scheduled to arrive on the U.S. shuttle Discovery.

Tani will replace fellow American Clayton Anderson, who has been at the station since June.

The U.S. space program has depended largely on Russia for cargo and astronaut delivery to the space station since the 2003 explosion of the shuttle Columbia.

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