An international trio of astronauts on Thursday took a Soyuz space capsule on a rare trip around the International Space Station in preparation for the arrival of a new crew next week.
Russian flight commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and engineers Karen Nyberg of NASA and Luca Parmitano of Italy undocked their Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft from the Rassvet module on the Earth-facing side of the station and carefully manuevered it to the Zvezda module's aft end.
The fly-around—which NASA said was last performed in July 2010—sets the stage for the arrival on November 7 of a new crew which will bring along one of the torches Russia is using in its relay for the February 7-23 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
The addition of the new team—comprised of NASA's Rick Mastracchio and Japan's Koichi Wakata as well as Russian Soyuz commander Mikhail Tyurin—will take the number of people on board the station to nine for the first time.
Space officials said cosmonauts Kotov and Ryazansky will take the Olympic torch for a symbolic spacewalk on November 9.
The Soyuz capsule is used by crew members to dock to the orbiting lab and remains attached to the station for return missions to Earth.
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