A three-man space crew made up of American and Japanese rookie astronauts and an experienced Russian cosmonaut successfully docked at the International Space Station to begin a six-month mission today. NASA TV footage showed the Soyuz MS-07 capsule containing Scott Tingle of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency dock at the ISS at 0839 GMT following a two-day flight. A NASA TV commentator hailed the “textbook arrival” of the trio at the orbital lab positioned more than 250 miles above “the boot of Italy” at the time of contact. The space travellers who blasted off from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in freezing conditions Sunday will now join Russia’s Alexander Misurkin and NASA pair Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba currently aboard the ISS. Both Tingle, 52, and Kanai, 40, are first-time flyers but flight commander Shkaplerov, 43, is an experienced hand. The former Russian military pilot has spent exactly a year in space over two missions and will mark his birthday in orbit for the third time in February next year.
Kanai is the youngest astronaut in the history of the Japanese space agency, and the last of a trio of Japanese astronauts who were certified for travel to the ISS back in 2011. US Navy captain Tingle is a graduate of Purdue University in Indiana, which also counts space legend Neil Armstrong among its alumni. The ISS laboratory, a rare example of American and Russian cooperation, has been orbiting Earth at about 28,000 kilometres per hour since 1998.