It's a full house again at the International Space Station after a Russian capsule carrying three astronauts from three countries docked at the orbiting lab yesterday. The new tenants arriving for a five-month stay were American Michael Fossum, Russian Sergey Volkov, and Japan's Satoshi Furukawa. They join American Ronald Garan and Russians Andrey Borisenko (the commander) and Alexander Samokutyaev. The rendezvous unfolded smoothly, despite a minor thruster problem with the Soyuz spacecraft. The two craft came together nearly 220 miles above the Atlantic, northeast of Rio de Janeiro.
A NASA official who watched the docking from Russian Mission Control said in response to a question that the first private space station delivery could come as early as November. NASA is encouraging US companies to take over cargo runs to the space station and, ultimately, provide rides for crews. In the meantime, American astronauts will continue to ride back and forth on Soyuz spacecraft at a cost of tens of millions of dollars a seat, as NASA turns its attention toward interplanetary travel. (Click to read about the interesting vegetation one astronaut plans to grow onboard.)