Three astronauts have completed their six-hour trip aboard a Soyuz spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station.
The spacecraft — carrying Russian Soyuz Cmdr. Fyodor Yurchikhin, American astronaut Karen Nyberg and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano — connected with the space station slightly ahead of schedule at about 10:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday night.
Ten minutes later, the docking procedure was complete.
The docking was "right on the money," said mission control after the Russian-made spacecraft arrived six minutes under the previous record time, though one of the many voices audible on the video feed noted the goal of such flights is "precision, not speed."
The three astronauts blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazahkstan at 4:31 p.m. ET Tuesday (12:31 a.m. local time Wednesday).
They orbited the Earth four times before docking with the space station's Rassvet module.
After docking, two hours passed before pressure equalized between the capsule and the station, allowing safe entry.
"It was a pretty cool ride," Nyberg said upon arrival.
Yurchikhin, 54, is a veteran of three previous spaceflights, while the 36-year-old Parmitano, a former test pilot, is making his first trip into space. Nyberg, 43, spent two weeks in space in 2008 as part of a U.S. space shuttle crew.
Onboard the space station they join Russian cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, who arrived at the space station in March. Vinogradov is currently commander of the space station. He will hand over command to Yurchikhin in September, when Vinogradov, Misurkin and Cassidy head back to Earth.
Yurchikin, Nyberg and Parmitano are expected to return home in November.
Tuesday's flight was the second manned Soyuz to take a new, faster trajectory to the space station instead of the two-day trip that used to be the norm. The three astronauts already aboard the space station pioneered the new trajectory in March. At that point, it had already been tested with three unmanned spacecraft.