A spacecraft carrying a three-man crew has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) after what was the fastest ever manned trip to the facility.
Chris Cassidy, from the US, and Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin travelled for six hours in the capsule before linking up with the space station’s research module.
It was the first time a space crew has taken such a direct route – previous missions had taken two days.
“It’s such a beautiful sight, hard to believe my eyes,” Mr Vinogradov, who had previously been in space in 1997 and 2006, was heard saying on Nasa TV.
The incoming crew will spend five months in space before returning to Earth.
The trio were launched aboard the Soyuz spacecraft from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Before the trip Nasa spokesman Josh Byerly said they were “on a fast track to the International Space Station”.
And Nasa astronaut Mr Cassidy said: “From a technical point of view, we feel pretty comfortable with this.
“All of the procedures are very similar to what we do in a two-day process and we’ve trained it a number of times.”
Russian cosmonaut Mr Vinogradov joked at a pre-launch news conference that the journey would be so quick it could allow the crew to even carry ice cream as a present to the three men currently manning the orbiting outpost.
“It wouldn’t melt in such a short time,” he quipped.
On a more serious note, Mr Vinogradov said the shorter flight path would reduce the crew’s fatigue and allow astronauts to be in top shape for the docking.
The ISS is a $100bn (£65.8bn) research outpost that orbits about 250 miles (400km) above Earth.