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Last Updated: Monday, 20 October, 2003, 09:10 GMT 10:10 UK
Soyuz docks with space station
The Soyuz space vehicle is shown docked at the International Space Station
With the shuttle grounded, Russian craft service the ISS
A Russian Soyuz spaceship carrying three crew from the US, Russia, and Spain has docked with the International Space Station (ISS).

It is the second time a Soyuz has taken an American to the ISS since the US shuttle fleet was grounded after the break-up of the orbiter Columbia in February.

The 16-nation space platform now depends solely on Russia to provide the link with Earth.

The new crew includes British-born Michael Foale - who now lives in the US.

He will take up his post as commander and stay on the ISS for six months with Russian cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri.

Space wedding

The outgoing crew had been put on standby to prepare for the docking - although the manoeuvre is done automatically.

Michael Foale, Nasa

"Everything went well, as expected. There was no need for interference by the crew," said a spokesman at mission control near Moscow.

After docking, clamps secured the Soyuz and leak checks in the tunnel connecting the two craft began. The hatches are due to be opened at about 0915 GMT.

The third astronaut on board the spaceship, Pedro Duque of the European Space Agency, is to conduct scientific experiments as part of the 10-day Cervantes Mission.

Duque, a Spaniard, will return with the outgoing crew, US astronaut Ed Lu and Russia's Yuri Malenchenko, who have been aboard since 28 April.

They were the first crew to return to space after the Columbia disaster, Lu wearing the badge of his lost colleagues.

Cash strapped

Malenchenko will become the first person to have left the planet single and return to a new wife. He was married in August while in orbit.

Construction work at the ISS is on hold because the space shuttle is the only way to transport large, heavy equipment and big scientific apparatus to and from the orbiting platform.

The BBC's Nikolai Gorshkov in Moscow says the Russian space agency is woefully short of money and had to postpone the launch of a cargo ship to bring fresh supplies to the ISS.

The money could come from Nasa - but for a US law that penalises Moscow for its nuclear co-operation with Iran.

The Soyuz TMA-3 craft blasted off from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Saturday.

Bumpy ride

Foale is making his sixth trip into space, having spent more than four months aboard the Russian space station Mir in 1997.

During the visit to the ISS, Foale will clock up more hours in space than any other US astronaut in history.

Kaleri is on his fourth flight. He has visited Mir three times, spending 416 days in orbit.

It is hoped their return in six months' time will be smoother than that of the previous space mission.

A bumpy landing in the steppes of Kazakhstan hundreds of kilometres off target in May led to rescue teams spending nerve-wracking hours locating the capsule.

The BBC's Clarence Mitchell
"It is four years since Michael Foale was last in space"


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