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Brazil's first astronaut


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Soyuz spacecraft docks

8.15PM, Sat Apr 1 2006



A Soyuz spacecraft has delivered Brazil's first astronaut and a Russian-US crew to the orbiting International Space Station (ISS), two days after blasting off from earth.


Marcos Pontes, a 43-year-old Brazilian Air Force pilot, had spent the journey hunched inside the capsule with Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov and US astronaut Jeffrey Williams, both off whom are starting a six-month rotation in space.


Dozens of Brazilian, Russian and US space officials at Mission Control watched on a big screen as the outgoing team, American Bill McArthur and Russian Valery Tokarev, welcomed the newcomers aboard.


"Is Marcos all right?" was the first question asked by Tokarev when the hatch was opened.


Within seconds, a joyful Pontes could be seen floating in, waving the Brazilian flag.


Pontes, who also packed a Brazilian soccer team shirt, will return to earth in just over a week with the outgoing crew.


"The docking was smooth and the crew are now preparing to open the hatches to enter the ISS," a spokesman for mission control, situated outside Moscow, said.


The departure of the 13th expedition to the ISS on Thursday was marred by a brief communication glitch soon after the Soyuz blasted off from Baikonur cosmodrome.


Russian space officials have said that the glitch did not threaten the mission.

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