A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying an American and two Russians has docked with the International Space Station (ISS), briefly doubling the facility's occupancy.
The hatch between the Soyuz TMA-22 and the ISS opened Wednesday to welcome new crew members for the first time since NASA retired the space shuttle program in July.
The new three-person crew launched Monday from a snowy Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The mission had been delayed two months due to safety concerns following the August crash of a Soyuz cargo rocket.
The station's six inhabitants will have less than one week together before the current ISS crew, comprising American, Russian and Japanese members, returns to Kazakhstan November 22. The new crew is scheduled for a March 2012 return to Earth.
The next scheduled launch bound for the ISS is December 21.
The Russian space program has experienced several mishaps in recent months. An August 24 unmanned launch attempt experienced a catastrophic failure.
Russia has likely lost the Phobos-Grunt Mars probe, which failed to leave Earth's orbit after Wednesday's launch. Experts continue efforts to re-establish a proper trajectory and send the wayward spacecraft toward Mars.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.