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Cargo ship docks with space station

An unmanned Russian supply craft brings food, supplies, snails, movies and more to  the international space station.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Russian cargo ship carrying food, equipment and other supplies docked successfully with the international space station Wednesday, an official said.

The unmanned Progress M-52 spacecraft docked with the station on schedule at 11:10 p.m. Moscow time (3:10 p.m. ET), said Valery Lyndin, a spokesman for Russia’s Mission Control in Korolyov, just outside Moscow.

An automatic docking procedure connected the cargo ship to the station’s Russian-made Zvezda service module, Lyndin said by telephone from Mission Control.

The Progress craft had lifted from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday, carrying about 2.75 tons of food, water, fuel and research equipment for Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov and U.S. astronaut Leroy Chiao, who have been on the station since October.

Along with other cargo, the spaceship carries 50 snails intended for biological experiments. The cargo also includes some movies, compact discs and other personal items for the crew. Lyndin said Sharipov and Chiao would open the hatches in the coming hours and begin bringing supplies aboard the station.

“They need to get those snails out before they freeze,” he said.

Russian Soyuz crew capsules and Progress cargo ships have been the only link to the space station since the U.S. shuttle fleet was grounded after the Columbia burned up as it returned to Earth in February 2003, killing all seven astronauts aboard. NASA has said it plans to resume shuttle flights as early as May