MOSCOW (AP) - A Soyuz capsule carrying three astronauts docked successfully on Friday with the International Space Station, bringing the size of the crew at the orbiting lab to six.
Mr Chris Cassidy of the United States and Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin travelled six hours in the capsule before linking up with the space station's Russian Rassvet research module over the Pacific Ocean, just off Peru.
"It's such a beautiful sight, hard to believe my eyes," the 59-year-old Vinogradov, who had been in space in 1997 and 2006, was quoted as saying on NASA TV.
The incoming crew will spend five months in space before returning to Earth.
Their mission began with a late-night launch from the Russian-leased Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan.
It was the first time a space crew has taken such a direct route to the orbiting lab. Astronauts Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin are the first crew to reach the station after only four orbits instead of the standard 50-hour flight to reach the station.
The new manoeuvre was tested successfully by three Russian Progress cargo ships, unmanned versions of the Soyuz used to ferry supplies to the space station.
Mr Vinogradov said at a pre-launch news conference that the shorter flight path would reduce the crew's fatigue and allow the astronauts to be in top shape for the docking.