A new Russian-American crew arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday after an express trip from Earth of under six hours, the fastest ever journey to the orbiting laboratory.
A NASA astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts opened the hatches of their Soyuz-TMA spaceship and floated into the ISS to a warm welcome from the three incumbent crew, live pictures broadcast on Russian television showed.
Russia's Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin and American Chris Cassidy are now expected to spend the next five months aboard the station after a hitch-free launch and docking.
Their record-breaking trip from blast-off at Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to docking with the ISS lasted less than six hours, slashing the travel time for arriving at the station.
Previously, trips to the ISS had taken over two full days as spaceships orbited the Earth 30 times before docking with the space station.
However, under a new technique now employed by the Russian space agency, the Soyuz capsule this time only orbited Earth four times before docking.
The successful fast-track voyage is a huge boost for the embattled Russian space programme, whose reputation has been battered by several failed satellite launches in the last year.
However, there have been no problems to date with the manned spaceflight programme.
After the retirement of the US space shuttle, Russia is now the sole nation capable of transporting humans to the ISS.
On board the three spacemen are joining incumbent crew Chris Hadfield of Canada, Tom Marshburn of NASA and Russia's Roman Romanenko.
Hadfield has over the last months built up a huge following online with colourful tweets from space and spectacular pictures of the Earth below.
"They're docked! I was right at the hatch, heard/felt the metal sliding, heavy thump, then Soyuz pulling to check latched. So very cool," he said on Twitter.