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Mission: Expedition 23
Craft: Soyuz TMA-18
Crew: Alexander Skvortsov, Mikhail Kornienko and Tracy Caldwell Dyson
Launch: April 2 @ 12:04 a.m. EDT (0404 GMT)
Docking: April 4 @ 1:25 a.m. EDT (0525 GMT)
Duration: 167 days

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Soyuz capsule arrives at International Space Station
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: April 4, 2010


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On the eve of the shuttle Discovery's launch on a space station resupply mission, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft completed a smooth docking with the international lab complex early Sunday, boosting the station's crew from three to six.

With commander Alexander Skvortsov monitoring a problem-free, automated approach, the Soyuz TMA-18 docked to the International Space Station's new Poisk module at 1:25 a.m. EDT as the two spacecraft sailed 222 miles above Kazakhstan.

"Target is in the middle," said someone, presumably Skvortsov, as the Soyuz closed in. "Contact. Contact. OK, contact, hard mate."

"Everybody's clapping here," a Russian flight controller radioed. "Everybody's applauding you guys."

After extensive leak checks, hatches were opened at 3:19 a.m. and Skvortsov, flight engineer Mikhail Kornienko and NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson were welcomed aboard by Expedition 23 commander Oleg Kotov, Soichi Noguchi and Timothy "T.J." Creamer.

All six then gathered in the Zvezda command module for a traditional call from dignitaries and family members gathered in the Russian mission control center near Moscow.

"Congratulations on your successful launch and docking," said Kirk Shireman, deputy manager of the space station program at the Johnson Space Center. "It's great to see you on board the ISS. I wanted to wish you all a happy Easter. And for Soichi, T.J. and Oleg, it's great to see all of you as a crew of six on board ISS and wish you all the best on this holiday."

"Thank you very much," Dyson replied.

Dyson's mother, Mary Ellen Caldwell, took the phone a few minutes after that, saying "Hi, Tracy, it's Mom. Hi guys, you all look wonderful and you look like you had a good flight. Congratulations on your big success and happy Easter."

"Thanks a lot, Mom," the astronaut replied. "Love you."

"Hello Tracy, it's your husband," George Dyson called. "I wanted to let you know that you look beautiful and with your grin from ear to ear, it looks like you're happy to be back in your home. Enjoy your time up there and I'll be talking to you soon. I love you."

"Love you, too."

The Soyuz docking came on the eve of the shuttle Discovery's launch Monday from the Kennedy Space Center on a flight to deliver some 10 tons of supplies and equipment. Assuming an on-time liftoff, Discovery will dock with the space station's forward port around 3:44 a.m. Wednesday, boosting the combined crew to 13.

"Today was a beautiful beginning to Expedition 23," Shireman said at a post-docking news conference. "We're very pleased to have a successful docking and a successful launch a couple of days ago. It's great to have six people on board the International Space Station once again and we look forward to a lot of successful and difficult work this crew will perform.

"Early tomorrow in Florida, their colleagues will be launching from the Kennedy Space Center and docking two days later. So Alexander, Mikhail and Tracy won't have much time to rest before their new friends will arrive and it will be a busy time."

Spaceflight Now Plus
Additional coverage for subscribers:
VIDEO: NEW STATION RESIDENTS WELCOMED ABOARD PLAY
VIDEO: SOYUZ DOCKS TO THE SPACE STATION PLAY

VIDEO: FULL EXPERIENCE FROM LIFTOFF TO ORBIT PLAY
VIDEO: CREW DEPARTS SITE 254 FOR LAUNCH PAD PLAY
VIDEO: VIPS MEET THE CREW ON LAUNCH MORNING PLAY
VIDEO: CREW MEMBERS DON THEIR SOKOL SPACESUITS PLAY
VIDEO: LAUNCH MORNING TRADITIONS AT CREW QUARTERS PLAY

VIDEO: SOYUZ ROCKET ROLLED TO THE LAUNCH PAD PLAY
VIDEO: ASSEMBLY OF SOYUZ COMPLETED IN THE HANGAR PLAY
VIDEO: HIGHLIGHTS OF CREW'S ACTIVITIES AT BAIKONUR PLAY
VIDEO: BIOS OF SKVORTSOV, KORNIENKO AND CALDWELL DYSON PLAY
VIDEO: PREVIEW OF NEXT SIX MONTHS AT SPACE STATION PLAY
VIDEO: BIOS OF KOTOV, CREAMER AND NOGUCHI PLAY
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