A Russian spacecraft has slashed the usual time taken to reach the International Space Station. The achievement has set a new record and standard for future missions.
Six hours was all it took for the ISS to welcome its newest guest, fresh from its Earthly takeoff.
Using a new approach maneuver, the unmanned Russian spacecraft Progress docked at the ISS slightly ahead of schedule.
The reason for its speedy ascent was that it took only four orbits to reach the ISS, located around 350 kilometers (220 miles) above the earth, instead of the usual 34.
That trip usually takes around two days, so astronauts are hopeful this new approach can be used in future manned Soyuz capsules, cutting costs and time.
Hopes for the future
"If you can get the crew to orbit in six hours and onboard the International Space Station, that could be a tremendous benefit over the two-plus days it takes today," Dan Harman, NASA's space station manager of operations and integration, told reporters last week.
If the maneuver is used in manned missions, it could mean astronauts spend less time in cramped discomfort reaching their destination, ultimately giving them more research time at the ISS.
Mission control spokeswoman Natalia Biketova has been quoted by the AFP news agency as saying the procedure was still in the test phase, which is why a cargo ship had been used in this case.
The ISS is currently hosting two other cargo vessels, and it is being manned by three Russian cosmonauts, two US astronauts and a Japanese astronaut.
The news is also encouraging for Russia's space program, which over the past year has lost half a dozen satellites and a Progress cargo vessel bound for the ISS.