A Russian spaceship bearing the name of history's most famous cosmonaut docked at the International Space Station late Wednesday to deliver three new crew members to the orbiting lab. The Soyuz TMA-21 — nicknamed "Gagarin" after Yuri Gagarin, who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961 — successfully docked with the station's Poisk module at 7:09 p.m. EDT (2309 GMT). The spacecraft had launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 4, blasting off from the same pad used for Gagarin's historic flight nearly 50 years ago. "Contact and capture — docking confirmed," a NASA official announced as the "Gagarin" sidled up to the orbiting lab. The "Gagarin" launched into space Monday (April 4 EDT) carrying two cosmonauts and one NASA astronaut to join three other crewmembers already aboard the station, rounding out the orbiting lab's Expedition 27.
The three spaceflyers — NASA's Ron Garan and Russians Alexander Samokutyaev and Andrey Borisenko — will also stay on as part of the next station mission, Expedition 28. "It was a great couple of days and we're ready to get to work," Garan said. Garan and Samokutyaev will be flight engineers on both expeditions. Borisenko will serve as a flight engineer on Expedition 27 and later serve as the commander of Expedition 28. [Vote Now! The Best Spaceships of All Time]. The crew received a flood of congratulatory calls from Russia's Mission Control center near Moscow after docking at the space station. Russian space official and the families of the astronaut and cosmonauts were on hand to wish the crew well. "We love you," Garan's wife Carmel told her husband and his crewmates after their arrival on the station. "We'll keep the fires burning at home, and we'll welcome you home with open arms at the end of your successful mission."