March 28th saw a record setting Soyuz launch from Baikonur in Kazakhstan sending the Expedition 36 crew of a veteran Russian spacecraft commander, a rookie cosmonaut and a Navy SEAL-turned-astronaut to the International Space Station in less than 6 hours.
The Russian Soyuz-FG rocket carrying the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft to the ISS launched on March 28th at 2043 UTC. This launch would demonstrate the ability for a manned Soyuz to launch and dock with ISS on the same day, a mission that has been tested on the unmanned Progress resupply vehicles.
The crew of Soyuz commander Pavel Vinogradov, flight engineer Alexander Misurkin and shuttle veteran Christopher Cassidy were tasked with a busy flight plan, condensing the 2 days worth of orbital burns, corrections and pre-docking operations in less than 5 hours to prepare for docking.
The Soyuz docked with the ISS at 0228 UTC on March 29th slightly early after 5 hours 45 minutes after launch with hatch opening at 0435 UTC.
Unlike previous Soyuz missions the crew did not have time after achieving orbit to even take off their flight suits until the craft was docked with the ISS and the automated vestibule pressurization and leak checks were underway. The whole work day for the astronauts was around 21 hours from waking up until they got to sleep at their new home on ISS for the next six months. While the flight plan calls for the crew to remain suited for long duration it is argued that this mission plan is favorable to having to spend up to 2 days living in the cramped Soyuz.
With the arrival of the new crew at ISS the Expedition 35 crew is brought back up to a full 6 until May when current ISS commander Chris Hadfield, Thomas Marshburn and Roman Romanenko will return to Earth. During the Expedition 36 crews stay there will be numerous visiting spacecraft such as the European ATV and the Japanese HTV as well as having spacewalks planned.
Image Credit: NASA