A Russian spacecraft docked ahead of schedule at the international space station Monday,delivering an American space tourist and a new two-man Russian-American crew. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.


Engineers described the docking of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station, 350 kilometers above the earth, as flawless.

Preparing to enter the space station is the crew of Expedition 12, made up of Astronaut William McArthur, Cosmonaut Valery Tokarev, and US millionaire Gregory Olsen, who paid 20 million dollars to fulfill a lifelong dream.


"When I was younger, it was just a dream. Space, to be there, go there. It was a dream, I just never thought I'd get there."


It's an exciting time for the Brooklyn born scientist who made his fortune designing electronic sensors.

But it's also an eagerly awaited moment for the crew of the orbiting space station.

Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev and his American counterpart John Phillips have not had visitors for 6 months.


(Mission Control): " Great to see you all on orbit, John, Sergei, Valery, Bill, and Greg, have a good week and soft landing to the crew coming home."



Expedition 12's McArthur and Tokarev are here to relieve Astronaut Phillips and Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev who is about to surpass the old record of 747 days in space.

Although Mr. Olsen will only spend about a week inside the space station, his daughter says he plans to do more than just fly in zero gravity. Krista Olsen says her father is also an active member of the mission.


"He is a physicist. So going up there and trying to do experiments and apply his science knowledge to this, is very exciting for him, that he can be an active participant."


Olsen will conduct medical experiments for the European Space Agency and make several radio and video broadcasts to students while he's in space.

The 60-year old scientist is the second American tourist in space. In 2001, American entrepreneur Dennis Tito paid 20 million dollars to the Russians for the chance, followed by South Africa's Mark Shuttleworth in 2002.

No word if China, the third country to put a man in space after the Soviet Union and the United States, has plans to subsidize its space program in similar fashion. The communist country plans to launch it's second manned space flight later this month.