The trio of space travellers aboard Russia’s Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft reached the International Space Station in a record time of just over three hours. The Soyuz capsule, carrying a NASA astronaut and two cosmonauts, docked to the ISS at 4.48am (Eastern Time) after it blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1.45am (Eastern Time) on October 14.
“3 hours 3 minutes!” tweeted Roscosmos chief Dmitriy Rogozin, celebrating the record time.
The crew members embarked on a two-orbit, three-hour journey to the space station where they joined Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. The travel time from Earth to ISS is usually around six hours and prior to 2013, a manned journey would take two days to reach the space station.
The latest Soyuz journey has also beaten the fastest time of missions carrying supplies to the station. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos have now entered their new orbital home for the six-month mission. The orbiting laboratory’s population has temporarily increased to six people.
Welcome home! With the Soyuz hatch opened at 7:07am ET, the @Space_Station crew has doubled. Astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov are now residents of our orbiting laboratory: https://t.co/6NJI6TvEGK pic.twitter.com/LglU99Jm0l— NASA (@NASA) October 14, 2020
The mission will coincide with the 20th anniversary of ISS, marking 20 years of continuous human presence in space. It was the second spaceflight for Rubins and Ryzhikov and the first for Kud-Sverchkov. The Expedition 64 crew will conduct research in technology development, Earth science, biology, and human research among others.
The Soyuz launch comes nearly two weeks ahead of the launch of the SpaceX Crew-1 mission. NASA and SpaceX are targeting October 31 as the launch date of SpaceX Crew-1 mission to deconflict the arrival from the Soyuz launch and landing operations. The departure of a Soyuz from the space station is scheduled for October 21. The US space agency had said that the additional time is required to ensure closure of all open work ahead of the Crew-1 arrival.