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Image: Soyuz craft
A Russian Soyuz craft approaches the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Three new crew members were welcomed aboard the International Space Station today, just in time to help out with a big moving job.

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and his Russian crewmates, Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko, floated out of their Russian Soyuz capsule and through the hatch into the station’s Zvezda service module at 5:20 a.m. PT.

They went through a gauntlet of handshakes and hugs from the three spacefliers who have been living aboard the orbital complex since July: NASA’s Kate Rubins, Japan’s Takuya Onishi and Russia’s Anatoly Ivanishin, the station’s commander.

“We had a great flight,” Kimbrough said during a post-arrival news conference.

One of the first tasks facing the newly expanded crew will be to bring in Orbital ATK’s robotic Cygnus cargo ship, which was launched on Monday and has been loitering in orbit while the Soyuz was en route.

The commercial craft is now scheduled to arrive on Sunday. It will take several weeks to unload 5,100 pounds of supplies and load up the Cygnus with trash for disposal.

Rubins, Onishi and Ivanishin – are scheduled to return to Earth aboard a different Soyuz craft on Oct. 30. Kimbrough, Ryzhikov and Borisenko will spend a little more than four months keeping up the station and conducting more than 250 scientific investigations.

Meanwhile, in a completely different orbit, two Chinese astronauts are conducting experiments aboard the Tiangong 2 space lab.

Spacefliers Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong arrived at the lab aboard their Shenzhou 11 spacecraft on Wednesday and are due to spend 30 days on Tiangong 2, marking China’s longest-ever crewed space mission.

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