Saturday, March 16, 2013

Coming Home to Our Fragile Oasis: Trio Lands Safely

The Expedition 33/34 crew aboard the International Space Station have returned home to Earth after spending 144 days in space.


The crew made up of NASA Astronaut Kevin Ford, and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin were scheduled to return home on March 15th, but due to adverse weather conditions at the landing site in Kazakhstan, the return home was delayed, allowing the trio to spend an extra day in space.

The departing Soyuz as seen after undocking from the ISS
Finally, after 142 days aboard the ISS, it was time for Ford, Tarelkin and Novitskiy to return home. The trio bid farewell to their crew mates Chris Hadfield, Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko(who will return to Earth in mid-May), and hatches between the departing Soyuz and the space station were closed at 9:38 p.m. GMT. 

A few hours later, the Soyuz TMA-06M crew undocked from the International Space Station. Soyuz commander Oleg Novitskiy was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked at 12:43 a.m. from the Poisk Mini-Research Module 2, while the station was flying over northeastern Mongolia. The undocking officially marked the beginning of Expedition 35.

From left: Tarelkin, Novitskiy and Ford give thumbs up a few hours after landing
Following a series of deorbit burns, the Soyuz made its way through the Earth's atmosphere, with the spacecraft landing in the steppe of Kazakhstan, northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk at an estimated time of 4:08 a.m. GMT. In freezing, foggy conditions, search and rescue and recovery forces arrived quickly, extracted the crew from the Soyuz, and sat them down as the trio were checked to see if they were alright,  as they adjusted to life back on Earth.

Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko will remain aboard the orbiting complex as a three-person crew until the March 28 launch and docking of Expedition 35 Flight Engineers Chris Cassidy, Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin.