A NASA astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts landed safely in Kazakhstan on Thursday. They were on a 167-day mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
NASA station commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Russian flight engineers Elena Serova and Alexander Samokutyaev returned to Earth in a capsule, which landed in a vertical upright position at 0807 (0207 GMT). The drop-off point was 92 miles southeast of the town of Zhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan.
“Expedition 42 is back on Earth”, said a NASA commentator, adding that the landing procedure was done by the book. The capsule was charred on re-entry, but the first medical checks found nothing wrong with the three astronauts. They were imediately covered with blankets, to protect the trio from the steppe cold.
Serova, who was ending her first space mission and became the first Russian woman to serve on the International Space Station, was smiling as a doctor measured her pulse and blood pressure. The other two astronauts, Wilmore and Samokutyaev, were on their second space flight to the ISS, the $100 billion project which flies about 260 miles above Earth.
“Everything is fine. I am drinking real tea with lemon,” Samokutyaev said, while Wilmore added in Russian that he is glad to be back on Earth. The three astronauts were evacuated from the landing area with individual helicopters.
NASA astronaut Terry Virts is in command of the ISS. Along with him in the International Space Station are cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. They are scheduled to return home in mid-May.
Wilmore and Vrits have done three spacewalks in order to prepare parking spots for two commercial space taxis hired by NASA, which will begin to bring in astronauts to and from the station in 2017. According to NASA, the building operations will require three more spacewalks before the end of the year, in order to install docking ports for the new spaceships.
NASA and Russia will be doubling the mission time, trying to learn more about how the human body reacts to longer stays in space.
NASA astronaut Mark Kelly and Russia’s Mikhail Kornienko are due to spend a year aboard the station. They are scheduled to launch, along with cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, on March 27 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Image Source: NASA