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Russian rocket delivers them intact

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The Russian Soyuz TMA-22 that's carrying a new batch of crew members for the International Space Station (ISS) has successfully docked and offloaded its passengers.

NASA TV broadcast the docking live at 4.24AM GMT, nine minutes ahead of schedule.

The Russians made it look easy this time, which must be a relief after concerns that the ISS would have to be unmanned for the first time in 11 years when a Soyuz booster wrecked a supply ship in August.

After that crash, the three-man mission was delayed while Russian space agency Roscosmos looked into the accident, but the successful launch of another cargo ship using a Soyuz rocket at the end of October put them back on track.

Just before yesterday's Soyuz launch, the Russian space programme suffered another blow when it lost its Mars probe, Phobos-Grunt, in orbit around Earth after the craft failed to fire its engines and head for the Red Planet. The satellite remains stuck in its revolutions while engineers attempt to contact it.

However, Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin and NASA astronaut Dan Burbank have all made it safely onto the ISS and will be starting Expedition 30 soon.

Expedition 29 – the ISS's current team comprising America's Mike Fossum, Japan's Satoshi Furukawa and Russia's Serge Volkov – will head home on 22 November aboard a Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft.

After that, Exp 30's other astronauts will set out from Earth for the ISS on 21 December. Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Don Pettit and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers will fill out the crew until March next year. ®

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