The Russian space capsule carrying Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and two colleagues docked with the International Space Station on Friday morning.
The spacecraft carrying Hadfield, NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn and cosmonaut Roman Romanenko linked up with the space station's Rassvet module at 9:09 a.m. ET after spending two days in orbit
The docking took place around 410 kilometres above their point of origin, the Baikonur space port in southern Kazakhstan.
The trio will join NASA astronaut Cmdr. Kevin Ford and flight engineers and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin, who have been residing at the orbital laboratory since Oct. 26.
A welcome ceremony began once the hatch opened at 11:37 a.m. ET Friday, 2½ hours after the shuttle docked with the space station.
Hadfield was the first to float through the hatch. The new trio exchanged hugs and greetings with the existing crew upon entering the station, then fielded congratulatory calls from family and Mission Control officials.
'It's like going up to an attic and discovering a treasure you've forgotten about.'—Chris Hadfield, Canadian astronaut
"It's like going up to an attic and discovering a treasure you've forgotten about," said Hadfield on the phone with his family. "It's just magic."
Each newcomer spoke to members of their families from Mission Control in Moscow. Marshburn's daughter asked him to do a flip in the zero-gravity space station, which he did, much to the amusement of the audience in Moscow and the new crew.
Hadfield's son commented that his father's face was puffy and wondered if it was from smiling too much.
"Yeah, we've been smiling a lot," Hadfield said. "It was just a heck of a ride for the three of us. It's like being on a crazy dragster."
Hadfield also spoke with Paul Engel, director of communications for the Canadian Space Agency.
"All of Canada tuned in to watch that absolutely picture-perfect launch," said Engel. "Absolutely extraordinary. Good luck with the mission."
During his five-month visit, Hadfield will become the first Canadian to command the giant orbiting space laboratory in its 14-year history when he takes over in mid-March. Once Hadfield takes command, Ford, Novitskiy and Tarelkin will return home.
It's a task that former Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk says will be challenging.
'All of Canada tuned in to watch that absolutely picture-perfect launch.'—Paul Engel, director of communications, Canadian Space Agency
He says the 53-year-old Hadfield will have to maintain crew morale and make sure the crew paces itself, adding that the long duration stay is a marathon, not a sprint
Thirsk spent six months on the space station in 2009 — a record for a Canadian astronaut.
He also says that being away from family can be tough on astronauts who spend a long period of time on the space station.
This is Hadfield's third space journey.
His first space trip was in November 1995 when he visited the Russian Space Station Mir.
His second voyage was a visit to the International Space Station in April 2001, when he also performed two spacewalks.
Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko return home in May.