A Russian Soyuz spaceship reached the international space station Monday, delivering American millionaire Gregory Olsen and a new Russian-American crew.
Members of Olsen's family and U.S. and Russian space officials at Russian Mission Control applauded when the docking was announced. It was expected to take another three hours before the final air locks would be opened and the Soyuz capsule passengers would meet with the crew that has inhabited the orbiting station for six months.
Astronaut William McArthur and cosmonaut Valery Tokarev are to spend six months aloft, while Olsen is to return to Earth next week with the space station's current crew.
Since the 2003 Columbia disaster grounded the U.S. shuttle fleet, the United States has depended on Russian crafts to ferry its astronauts and supplies to the orbiting space station. Discovery visited the station in July, but problems with the foam insulation on its external fuel tank cast doubt on when the shuttle will fly again.
McArthur and Tokarev are replacing Russian Sergei Krikalev and American John Phillips, who will return to Earth on Oct. 11, along with Olsen, a 60-year-old founder of an infrared-camera maker. He reportedly paid $20 million for a seat on the Expedition 12 flight, the AP reports.
Europe has recognised the need for negotiations with Russia to discuss the security system on the continent. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is going to Macedonia for meetings with colleagues within the OSCE