Flight Engineers Jeff Williams and Maxim Suraev along with spaceflight participant Guy Laliberté have arrived at the International Space Station. They docked their Soyuz TMA-16 to the aft end of the Zvezda service module at 4:35 a.m. EDT Friday. They launched Wednesday at 3:14 a.m. from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.
The newest station crew members will greet the current residents when they open the hatches as early as 7:25 a.m.
Williams and Suraev are relieving Expedition 20 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Michael Barratt who will depart in several days with their Canadian visitor, Laliberté. The three crew members will enter the Soyuz TMA-14 and undock from the Pirs docking compartment at 9:05 p.m. EDT on Oct. 10. They will land in Kazakhstan about three and a half hours later.
Their departure signifies the end of Expedition 20 and the start of Expedition 21. European astronaut Frank De Winne will have completed his duties as Expedition 20 Flight Engineer and assumed command of the International Space Station. De Winne, of the European Space Agency, arrived at the station May 29, 2009. He is scheduled to return to Earth on Dec. 1, 2009 in the same vehicle in which he arrived, the Soyuz TMA-15, which is attached to Zarya’s Earth-facing port. De Winne’s departure in December will leave Jeff Williams in charge of the station as Expedition 22 commander.
Also continuing their stays aboard the station and transitioning to Expedition 21 are Flight Engineers Nicole Stott, Roman Romanenko and Robert Thirsk. Thirsk and Romanenko will continue their long-duration stay until they depart with De Winne. Stott who arrived Aug. 30 aboard space shuttle Discovery will return home in November aboard space shuttle Atlantis.
Atlantis is scheduled to be the last space shuttle to transport a station crew member when it leaves the International Space Station with Nicole Stott on the STS-129 mission. The Russian Soyuz spacecraft will continue crew transportation to and from the orbiting laboratory.
Williams, Padalka and De Winne are all space station veterans. For Williams, Expedition 21 is his third stay aboard the station. His first visit was during shuttle mission STS-101 in May 200 and then he served as a flight engineer during Expedition 13 in 2006. Expedition 21 is De Winne’s second station mission. He visited the station as part of a Soyuz taxi mission in late 2002. In addition to commanding Expeditions 19 and 20, Padalka was the Expedition 9 commander in 2004.