Russian spacecraft delivers 3 to orbiting station

December 23, 2011 - 12:12 PM

MOSCOW (AP) — A Soyuz spacecraft carrying a Russian, an American and a Dutchman docked Friday at the International Space Station, restoring the permanent crew to six members for the first time since September.

Mission commander Oleg Kononenko, NASA's Don Pettit and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers had traveled through space for two days before their Russian spacecraft docked at 5:19 p.m. (1319GMT).

They will join three others already on the orbiting station: NASA's Dan Burbank and Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, who arrived in November.

The six will work together on the International Space Station until March.

The failed launch of an unmanned Progress cargo ship in August had raised doubts about future missions to the station, because the rocket that crashed used the same upper stage as the booster rockets carrying Soyuz ships to orbit.

The next manned launch was delayed until Russian space officials could determine the cause of the Progress failure and it went off without a hitch in November. The crew on that mission overlapped for eight days with the three crew members remaining on the station, who then returned to Earth later that month.