Italian astronaut and crew take trip around ISS

An international trio of astronauts including Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano on Thursday took a Soyuz space capsule on a rare trip around the International Space Station in preparation for the arrival of a new crew next week.

Italian astronaut and crew take trip around ISS
Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano (bottom) wave as they board the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool/AFP

Russian flight commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and engineers Karen Nyberg of NASA and Luca Parmitano of Italy undocked their Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft from the Rassvet module on the Earth-facing side of the station and carefully manoevred it to the Zvezda module's aft end.

The fly-around — which NASA said was last performed in July 2010 — sets the stage for the arrival on November 7th of a new crew which will bring along one of the torches Russia is using in its relay for the February 7th-23rd Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

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The addition of the new team — comprised of NASA's Rick Mastracchio and Japan's Koichi Wakata as well as Russian Soyuz commander Mikhail Tyurin — will take the number of people on board the station to nine for the first time.

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Space officials said cosmonauts Kotov and Ryazansky will take the Olympic torch for a symbolic spacewalk on November 9th.

The Soyuz capsule is used by crew members to dock to the orbiting lab and remains attached to the station for return missions to Earth.

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