KAZAKHSTAN – An Olympic torch has reached the orbital leg of its relay, arriving with three new crew members Thursday morning at the International Space Station.
The Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, Koichi Wakata of Japan and Russia's Mikhail Tyurin docked at the orbiting research complex at 5:27 a.m., as the vehicles flew 260 miles above Germany.
"Contact...mechanical capture," radioed Tyurin, the Soyuz commander. "Everything is nominal, Moscow. We are home."
On the ground, family members applauded inside a theater near the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the crew's launch site just over six hours earlier, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.
For the next four days, the station will be home to nine astronauts and cosmonauts for the first time since 2009.
The crew members plan to hold a joint news conference Friday morning, a day before two cosmonauts take the Olympic unlit torch on a spacewalk.
It's all part of the relay leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games hosted by Russia in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi.
Three different crew members, including American Karen Nyberg, plan to return to Earth with the torch Sunday evening.