Baikonur-A three-man space crew from Italy, Russia and the United States on Friday arrived at the International Space Station for a five-month mission.

Footage broadcast by Russia’s space agency Roscosmos showed the Soyuz craft carrying Nasa astronaut Randy Bresnik, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazansky and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency take off into the dusky sky from Kazhakstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome.  Six hours later, after orbiting Earth four times, the Soyuz docked with the space station. The hatches between them were to open later, after pressurization and leak checks are carried out, according to the US space agency Nasa.

The arrival of the three astronauts boosted the ISS back up to its full capacity of six for the first time since April, after Russia decided to cut the number of its cosmonauts to two.

Nasa has responded to Russia’s reduction by boosting the number of astronauts that will operate in its half of the ISS.  In total, four astronauts — Peggy Whitson, Jack Fischer, Bresnik and Nespoli - will now conduct experiments in the Nasa-run segment, with Ryazansky joining Fyodor Yurchikhin to man the Russian section.  Bresnik said at a pre-launch press conference on Thursday that the extra member would help the crew conduct experiments and carry out repairs. “There is a ton of science to do,” he said ahead of the flight. Bresnik - who is on his second flight - also praised the work of Whitson, Fischer and Yurchikhin, already aboard the orbital lab.