Monday, November 11, 2013

Expedition 37 Trio Return to Earth After 5 and a Half Months in Space

The Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft has returned to Earth, bringing a trio of astronauts and cosmonauts back home after spending the 166 days living and working aboard the International Space Station.

The Soyuz spacecraft, carrying Soyuz commander Fyodor Yurchikin, and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano, landed in the steppe of Kazakhstan in near perfect conditions at 02:49 Irish Time.

Before all this, the trio bid farewell to their fellow ISS crew members, before hatches between the Soyuz and the station were closed at 20:09 on Sunday night.
Soyuz TMA-09M crew members shortly after landing
credit: NASA

Earlier on that day, Expedition 37 commander Fyodor Yurchikin handed command of the International Space Station over to fellow Russian cosmonaut, Expedition 38 commander Oleg Kotov.

Watch a video of today's change of command ceremony here.

Commander Yurchikin spoke beautifully before handing the reigns over to Kotov:

"It's a great day because we have a road to home, but each day and each night we will have a dream to return here again."

The journey home began when the Soyuz undocked from the aft end of the Zvezda Service Module at 23:26, marking the official beginning of Expedition 38. What is unusual about this particular departure, is that there remains six crew members aboard the complex, instead of the usual three.

Fyodor Yuchikin Waves Goodbye
credit: NASA TV
After performing a series of de-orbit burns to take the spacecraft out of orbit and headed for a landing in Kazakhstan, the Soyuz was spotted by search and recovery forces on site, with its parachute fully deployed. A short time later the spacecraft fired its soft landing engines in what is always a spectacular sight, in order to bring the Soyuz to a final stop.

Those search and recovery forces quickly got to work in extracting Yurchikin, Parmitano and Nyberg from their spacecraft, and sat them down one by one on individual reclining chairs so they could take in the sights and sounds of mother Earth which they had been deprived of for nearly six months.

Today's landing comes just a few days after the Sochi Olympic Torch was carried out on a spacewalk by Kotov and Expedition 37/38 crew member Sergey Ryazanskiy. In fact, the Olympic Torch was one of the items which was also returned in the Soyuz earlier today.

With the return of Soyuz crew, it's full speed ahead for the Expedition 38 crew to continue the science currently being conducted 250 miles above our heads aboard the International Space Station.

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