Image: Soyuz arrival
The Russian Soyuz TMA-03M pulls up to the International Space Station on Thursday, carrying three new crew members for the station's Expedition 30 mission.
updated 12/23/2011 10:53:32 AM ET 2011-12-23T15:53:32

Three astronauts arrived Thursday at the International Space Station just in time for a zero gravity holiday party to begin a five-month stay in orbit.

NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency docked at the orbiting laboratory at 10:19 a.m. ET as the two spacecraft sailed 240 miles over southern Russia. They arrived aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which launched Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. 

"The Soyuz crew arrives down the chimney of the space station with an early Christmas present for the station's crew," NASA spokesman Rob Navias said during the televised space rendezvous.

Waiting aboard the space station were their crewmates, commander Daniel Burbank of NASA and flight engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin of Russia. With the new crew members' arrival, the space station is fully staffed.

All three newly arrived astronauts are space veterans and have visited the station before. The new crew was greeted with warm hugs by the three men aboard the space station.

"I feel like I'm back home," Pettit told his wife Micki and 11-year-old twin boys Evan and Garrett via a video call from the station. "I promise to write often."

"We wish you good luck on your flight and merry Christmas," Evan said.

In between their busy work conducting science experiments in microgravity and maintaining the space station, the six spacemen will celebrate the holidays in orbital style. Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin have already decked the station's halls with festive decorations, and were just waiting for the new trio to stage a holiday feast. [Holidays in Space: An Astronaut Photo Album]

"With their arrival, ISS will be back at full strength, but we'll also have three good friends to join us," Burbank said in a holiday greeting video he sent from space. "We'll also have them just in time for the Christmas and New Year's holidays. We'll celebrate the holidays in great fashion after they get here."

Commercial spaceship arrival
Early in the new year, the station crew will begin preparing for a milestone event: the first arrival of a commercial spaceship at the space station.

The unmanned Dragon space capsule, built by SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif., will make a cargo delivery to the station in early February. Dragon has already flown on one test flight to orbit, but this mission will be the vehicle's first trip to the space station.

  1. Space news from
    1. KARE
      Teen's space mission fueled by social media

      Science editor Alan Boyle's blog: "Astronaut Abby" is at the controls of a social-media machine that is launching the 15-year-old from Minnesota to Kazakhstan this month for the liftoff of the International Space Station's next crew.

    2. Buzz Aldrin's vision for journey to Mars
    3. Giant black hole may be cooking up meals
    4. Watch a 'ring of fire' solar eclipse online

SpaceX is developing Dragon under a NASA program to stimulate the growth of commercial spacecraft to take over the duties of the retired space shuttle fleet. Dragon will begin by carrying supplies, and if all goes well, the vehicle will eventually carry astronauts to the space station as well.

For this test mission, Dragon will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and autonomously rendezvous with the space station. Once within reach, the station crew will grab onto the capsule with the space station's robotic arm and berth it to the outpost.

"I think that it's really a great idea to engage more companies participating in the space program, that contribute to the manned space program in particular," Kononenko told in a preflight interview. "The only thing that I would like to emphasize is that I would like these commercial vehicles to be absolutely safe."

Greetings, Earthlings
While in space, the astronauts plan to stay in touch with friends and family, and even the public, through technology. In addition to regular calls and emails home, the spacefliers will use social media to share their experiences.

"I'm planning to use Twitter," Pettit said in a press conference before the launch. "I have a hard time saying anything in less than 140 characters. I'm still groping with how can I use that kind of medium." He also plans to blog, he added.

The crew's Expedition 30 mission aboard the space station will be particularly followed by people in the Netherlands. Kuipers is only the third Dutch astronaut to travel to space, and the first to do so twice.

"A bit to my surprise, there's a lot of attention again," Kuipers said. "This is my second flight. To small countries, of course, the flight of a national astronaut is a big thing."

You can follow assistant managing editor Clara Moskowitz on Twitter @ClaraMoskowitz. Follow for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcomand on Facebook.

© 2013 All rights reserved. More from

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

loading photos...
  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments