Saturday, June 18, 2016

Space Station Trio Return to Earth

After a journey spanning almost 79 million miles, the crew of the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft have safely returned to Earth after completing their 186 day-long mission to the International Space Station.

Soyuz commander and veteran cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko alongside crew mates Tim Peake and Tim Kopra landed their vehicle in the remote steppe of Kazakhstan at 9:15 a.m. UTC -  just three hours after leaving their home for the past six months.
Malenchenko, Kopra and Peake shortly before closing the hatches
between their Soyuz and the International Space Station.
 credit: Roscosmos

The trio bid farewell to their Expedition 47 crew mates early this morning before hatches between the station and the Soyuz were closed. This was followed at 6:52 a.m. by the undocking of the spacecraft from the station's Rassvet module - marking the official beginning of Expedition 48.

Since their arrival to station the crew have conducted hundreds of scientific experiments across a wide range of scientific fields including physics, Earth observation and human physiology experiments. The crew also saw off One Year Crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko back in March.

Having landed under cloudy conditions amid high winds, the crew were extracted one by one from the vehicle by Russian search and recovery forces at the landing site and flown to the remote town of Karaganda a short time later for a welcoming ceremony.

Malenchenko will board a Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center plane for a flight back to Star City to be reunited with his family, while Peake will return to the European Astronaut Center in Cologne and Kopra will return to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

This morning's landing concludes the fifth long duration space flight, and the fourth aboard the International Space Station for Malenchenko, who has now logged a total of 828 days in space. European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake - the first British astronaut to visit the space station Peake logs 186 days in space while and NASA astronaut Kopra now has a total of 244 days of spaceflight across two missions.

In the meantime, station commander Jeff Williams along with Russian flight engineers Alexei Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka will remain aboard the station until September. Before his departure this morning, Expedition 47 commander Kopra handed over the reigns of the International Space Station to Williams in the traditional Change of Command ceremony in which he paid tribute to the space station programme;
Peake, Malenchenko and Kopra shortly after landing in the remote
steppe of Kazakhstan after 186 days aboard the ISS.
credit: NASA

"We've been so privileged to work here on board with a huge variety of science experiments that we know are going to be a stepping stone for human exploration.. together we've demonstrated that we have a world-class orbiting laboratory."

They will occupy the complex for the next three weeks before being joined in July by the crew of the Soyuz MS-01 comprising of Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The trio are set to launch aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 6th.

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