Image: Soyuz TMA-9
Nasa Tv  /  Reuters
The Soyuz TMA-9 spacecraft backs away from the International Space Station, clearing a space for a supply ship due to arrive in late October.
updated 10/10/2006 6:58:09 PM ET 2006-10-10T22:58:09

The crew aboard the International Space Station climbed into their Soyuz capsule Tuesday and drove to another parking spot, clearing the berth for a cargo ship set to arrive later this month.

Station commander Michael Lopez-Alegria, Soyuz commander Mikhail Tyurin and Germany's Thomas Reiter spent about 20 minutes making the slow flight from the Zvezda service module on the research outpost to the Zarya propulsion module.

During the maneuver, the station was left unstaffed as it orbited 220 miles above Earth.

With Tyurin at the controls, the Soyuz capsule backed out of the docking port it had occupied since Tyurin, U.S. astronaut Lopez-Alegria and space tourist Anousheh Ansari arrived on Sept. 20. Ansari returned to Earth eight days later with the previous station commander, Pavel Vinogradov, and flight engineer Jeff Williams aboard another Soyuz capsule.

When the Soyuz reached a point about 30 yards from the station, Tyurin stopped and fired steering thrusters to pivot the spacecraft and head toward the Soyuz's new parking space on the Zarya module.

"It's a very interesting sound when the thrusters fire," Tyurin told Russian flight controllers, a mission commentator said in a translation. "It sounds like someone is taking a drumstick and banging on the hull a little bit."

Slideshow: Month in Space: January 2014 The Soyuz is not expected to move again until Lopez-Alegria, Tyurin and an as-yet unnamed guest flier board the craft for a return to Earth next spring. Reiter's six-month assignment is due to end in December when the shuttle arrives ferrying his replacement, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams.

Russia plans to launch an unmanned Progress cargo ship with fuel, food and other supplies on Oct. 23. It is scheduled to arrive on Oct. 26 and dock at the station's newly vacated port.

Also on Tuesday, NASA said it was studying a possible problem with one of the station's four gyroscopes, which keep the outpost properly positioned without the use of rocking thrusters. The potentially faulty unit was powered off while an assessment is under way, said Rob Navias, a spokesman for the U.S. space agency.

The station can be steered with just two working units, he said.

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