Flight engineers Roman Romanenko, Robert Thirsk, and Frank De Winne docked at the ISS's Zarya module port, which faces Earth, at 8:34 a.m. EDT Friday. The hatch between the Soyuz and Zarya opened at 10:14 a.m., allowing the new crew members to board the station. The flight engineers' arrival marked the formation of the Expedition 20 team and the first time that a six-member team will work aboard the space station.
ISS commander Gennady Padalka and flight engineers Koichi Wakata and Mike Barratt, who served as Expedition 19 crew members, welcomed and conducted a safety briefing for the three flight engineers before beginning operations of the 20th Expedition crew.
Expedition 20 also marks the first time that all five international partner agencies -- NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency -- have been represented in orbit, NASA said.
Cosmonauts Padalka and Romanenko are from Roscosmos, the Russian federal space agency; Barratt is from NASA; Thirsk is from the Canadian Space Agency; De Winne is from the European Space Agency; and Wakata is from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
De Winne will serve as a flight engineer for Expedition 20 and commander for Expedition 21. He spent nine days on the ISS in 2002 during the Odissea mission. Thirsk will serve as a flight engineer for Expeditions 20 and 21. He flew as a payload specialist on the STS-78, the Life and Microgravity Spacelab mission, in 1996.
Padalka, a colonel in the Russian Air Force, also will command the Expedition 20 mission and serve as Soyuz commander. He was commander of Expedition 9 in 2004 and he performed four spacewalks during his first trip to the ISS.
Barratt will serve as another flight engineer for Expedition 20. He was the lead crew surgeon for the first Expedition crew that stayed at the station in July 1998.
Wakata served as a flight engineer for Expeditions 18 and 19 and will continue to serve in that capacity for Expedition 20. He is the first crew member from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to live aboard the ISS. He will return to Earth with the STS-127 crew.
The crew will hold a news conference to discuss the six-person operations at 9:25 a.m., Monday. NASA Television will broadcast the news conference live on its Web site, and reporters at several space agency locations around the world will be able to ask questions during the broadcast.
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