Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Expedition 36 Crew Return to Earth After 5 Months in Space

A trio of astronauts and cosmonauts who have been living and working aboard the International Space Station for the past five months, have successfully returned to Earth.

The Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft, carrying Soyuz commander Pavel Vinogradov, Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin, and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, landed in the steppe of Kazakhstan at 3:29 a.m. Irish Standard Time on September 10.
Yurchikin and Vinogradov say goodbye before hatch closure

Prior to their departure from the station Expedition 36 commander Vinogradov handed command of the orbiting outpost to fellow space flight veteran Fyodor Yurchikin on September 9th. Yurchikin, who now holds the reigns of the ISS for the second time in his career, paid tribute to the Expedition 36 crew, and looked forward to all the work that will be done as part of Expedition 37;

"We want to continue to do our job well" said Yurchikin.

"We would like to continue this programme. This programme is our future!"

Then the time came when the departing trio said their farewells to the rest of the astronauts who will still be living & working aboard the station; ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, and NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg; before closing the hatches between the Soyuz and the space station at 9:19 p.m.

With hatches closed, Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin donned their Sokol launch and entry suits they would wear for landing.

Undocking occurred at 12:38 a.m. as the Soyuz slowly moved away from the International Space Station, marking the official beginning of Expedition 37.

A series of deorbit burns were performed at 3:05 a.m. to take the Soyuz out of Earth orbit and back into the atmosphere. The spacecraft's parachutes then opened, before a "Soft landing" of the Soyuz occurred at 3:58 a.m. southeast of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.
The Soyuz landing 

Vinogradov, Misurkin and Cassidy return to Earth having spent 166 days in space.

Shortly after landing, search and rescue teams surrounded the charred Soyuz, before Vinogradov, Cassidy and Misurkin were extracted one by one from the spacecraft, and were then put into their own reclining chairs, while being attended to by medical staff. After a few phone calls to loved ones and celebratory photographs were taken, the three newly-returned space farers were lifted to a nearby medical tent for some tests.

Expedition 37 will comprise of a three person crew until the end of the month. Waiting back on Earth is the Soyuz TMA-10M crew, made up of cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, Sergey Ryazanskiy, and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins. All three will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on September 25.