A three-man crew docked successfully at the International Space Station (ISS) on April 9 hours after blasting off from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Russian and the U.S. space agencies announced the arrival of the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft at the ISS in separate statements.
U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner docked with the ISS after about six hours of spaceflight. They join three other crew who are already on the ISS, doubling its occupancy to six.
The crew spent a month in quarantine before departing on their six-month mission. Space crews routinely go into quarantine ahead of space missions, but this one was longer as a precaution to ensure none of them had been infected with the coronavirus.
It was just one of the prelaunch protocols that had been altered because of the coronavirus pandemic. Usually, departing crews face a packed news conference before being waved off by family and friends.
This time they answered questions e-mailed by journalists, and the in-person farewells were not possible because of travel restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the virus.
The new arrivals join U.S. astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, who are scheduled to depart the ISS and return to Earth on April 17.
The space station, which orbits about 400 kilometers above Earth, is tasked with conducting scientific experiments.