MOSCOW — Two cosmonauts linked up Saturday with the new Soviet space station and promptly gave television viewers a guided tour of what they described as a "wonderful home" in the skies.
"As we came close, it looked like a white-winged sea gull, soaring above the world," said an elated Leonid Kizim, the mission commander, in a TV broadcast.
He and engineer Vladimir Solovyov docked their spacecraft, Soyuz T-15, about 20 minutes ahead of schedule at the new space laboratory, which is named Mir--"peace" in Russian.
Their job is to prepare Mir to become the first permanently manned space station by testing its systems and equipment for an indefinite period of time.
Kizim, 44, a veteran of the record-setting 238-day space mission in 1984, floated weightlessly in the main cabin as he joked with Solovyov, who operated the TV camera.
"It's a delight; it's a beauty," he said as he pointed out the kitchen-dining area, the laboratory table and one of the private cosmonaut cabins that are a new feature of Mir.
"Members of mixed crews who perhaps will work aboard the new complex will especially admire this arrangement," earthbound cosmonaut Valery Kubasov said in an interview with the official news agency Tass.
Mir was designed to be the hub of a space complex for a wide variety of astrophysical and biological experiments.
It has six docking units, and machinery to shift spacecraft from one to another if necessary, Tass said. Crews can remain for longer periods in greater comfort aboard Mir than on earlier space stations, the Soviet space agency believes.
Kizim and Solovyov, who were launched two days ago, were in good humor as they reported on their new space home.
At one point, Kizim said he would show TV viewers "the captain's cabin," but Solovyov balked, insisting that Kizim deserved some privacy, and photographed another cabin instead.
"Everything's fine; everything's OK," Kizim said with a big smile on the filmed segment shown on "Vremya," the main evening news program here, usually watched by an estimated 150 million people.