Russian Soyuz craft docks with international space station

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MISSION CONTROL CENTER (Korolyov, Moscow Region). December 18. KAZINFORM The Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft carrying Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli and NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman successfully docked with the International Space Station on Friday; Kazinform refers to RIA Novosti.

The docking, which was broadcast live on Russia's state-run TV news channel Rossiya 24, was carried out in fully automatic mode.

The smooth docking comes a day after Russia's Mission Control Center lost contact with the Soyuz and the International Space Station for about three hours due to a problem with fiber-optic cables on the ground.

Earlier in December, three Russian satellites were lost when the upper stage of their Proton carrier rocket fell into the Pacific Ocean. The commission investigating the failure said on Friday that the Energia rocket maker was to blame as it loaded too much fuel into the booster.

The new ISS crewmembers blasted off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan on Wednesday and will stay on board the space station for at least 152 days. It is Kondratyev's first spaceflight, while Nespoli previously flew on the space shuttle Discovery in 2007 and Coleman was on two Columbia missions, in 1995 and 1999.

See www.en.rian.ru

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