MOSCOW - An international trio of astronauts on Thursday took a Soyuz space capsule on a rare trip around the International Space Station in preparation for the arrival of a new crew next week.
Russian flight commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and engineers Karen Nyberg of NASA and Luca Parmitano of Italy undocked their Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft from the Rassvet module on the Earth-facing side of the station and carefully manuevered it to the Zvezda module's aft end.
The fly-around - which NASA said was last performed in July 2010 - sets the stage for the arrival on November 7 of a new crew which will bring along one of the torches Russia is using in its relay for the February 7-23 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
The addition of the new team - comprised of NASA's Rick Mastracchio and Japan's Koichi Wakata as well as Russian Soyuz commander Mikhail Tyurin - will take the number of people on board the station to nine for the first time.
Space officials said cosmonauts Kotov and Ryazansky will take the Olympic torch for a symbolic spacewalk on November 9.
The Soyuz capsule is used by crew members to dock to the orbiting lab and remains attached to the station for return missions to Earth.