Moscow, May 29 (IANS/RIA Novosti) The Russian spacecraft -- Soyuz TMA-09M -- carrying three new crew members to the International Space Station (ISS), docked with the station Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Russian space agency Roscosmos said.
"The spacecraft automatically docked with the ISS as scheduled, six hours after the launch. Fortunately, the cosmonauts did not have to switch to the manual docking regime," he said.
The flight took approximately six hours. Until March, it had taken two days for crews to go from Earth to the space station.
The spacecraft, carrying Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, and astronauts Karen Nyberg of NASA and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency. It was launched at (00:31 Wednesday Moscow time) 8.31 p.m. Tuesday GMT and was orbited at 8.40 p.m. Tuesday GMT.
This is the fourth spaceflight for Yurchikhin, who will assume command of Expedition 37 once US astronaut Christopher Cassidy, and Russian cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin, undock in November.
This is flight engineer Nyberg's first flight aboard a Soyuz, though she flew to the ISS on the shuttle Discovery in 2008. Parmitano has no prior spaceflight experience.
The planned length of the new ISS expedition is 172 days.
Its members will perform 34 experiments and take part in the docking and unloading of four spacecraft - two Russian Progress space freighters, Europe's ATV-4 cargo spacecraft and a US-made commercial unmanned resupply spacecraft Cygnus.
Russian cosmonauts are also scheduled to perform several spacewalks.