Space station's first residents dock

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The first residents of the international space station have arrived at their new home in the Russian Soyuz capsule that ferried them to orbit.

The first residents of the international space station have arrived at their new home in the Russian Soyuz capsule that ferried them to orbit.

American astronaut Bill Shepherd, the station's skipper, and his crew - Russians Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev - blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the former Soviet republic of Kazakstan.

They were scheduled to dock with the station at 12:24 Moscow time or 9.24am GMT. Their first priorities after docking were flipping on all the lights and alarm systems, turning on all the life-support systems and - perhaps most important after two days in a cramped capsule with no privacy - getting the toilet working. Space shuttle astronauts set up the toilet in September, but left the first flush for Shepherd and his crew.

The men will spend the next four months living on the space station. Flight controllers hope to keep the crew's work schedule light the first few weeks, although Krikalev already has battery repairs on tap for Friday.

The U.S. space agency expects it will take a while before Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev - the so-called Expedition One - feel truly at home. They'll be confined to two of the space station's three rooms until space shuttle Endeavor arrives in early December with giant solar panels that will provide all the necessary power.

It will be a learning experience for everyone involved, said Jeff Hanley, a flight director in the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Mission Control in Houston.

"It's essentially a shakedown of the station for living and working in the future," Hanley said. "We're really treating Expedition One as a verification test flight if you will."

NASA, the Russian Space Agency and the 14 other countries involved in the dlrs 60 billion-plus project have high hopes for the space station. At least 15 years of scientific operation are planned, with crews eventually expanding from three to seven members.

For now, though, Shepherd and company are taking it day by day.

After training nearly five years for this mission in two countries and enduring two years of delay because of Russia's ailing economy, Shepherd is ready to enjoy himself in orbit, said his wife, Beth Stringham-Shepherd.

"This will definitely be the fun part," she said.

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