Space Station Crew Returns to Earth Aboard Soyuz Spacecraft
Expedition 27 Commander Dmitry Kondratyev and Flight Engineers Cady Coleman and Paolo Nespoli safely landed their Soyuz spacecraft on the Kazakhstan steppe early Tuesday morning, bringing to an end a five-month stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
The spacecraft landed at approximately 8:27 a.m. local time at a site southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan. Kondratyev was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked about five hours earlier from the station’s Rassvet module. Once the Soyuz was 600 feet (182 meters) away, Nespoli took the first still images and video of the Space Shuttle Endeavour as it was docked to the ISS. The orbiting laboratory had to rotate 130 degrees to provide an ideal view for the unique imagery.
Russian recovery teams were on hand to help the crew exit the Soyuz and adjust to gravity when they landed in Kazakhstan. Kondratyev will return to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, outside of Moscow, while NASA’s Coleman and Nespoli of the European Space Agency flew directly to Houston.
The trio launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on December 15, 2010. As members of the Expedition 26 and 27 crews, they spent 159 days in space, 157 of them aboard the station. They worked on more than 150 microgravity experiments in human research, biology and biotechnology, physical and materials sciences, technology development, and Earth and space sciences.
During the trio’s mission, the station welcomed a quick succession of international space vehicles including the Japanese Kounotori2, or “white stork,” H-II Transfer Vehicle 2; two Russian Progress cargo ships; the European Johannes Kepler Automated Transfer Vehicle-2; and space shuttles Discovery and Endeavour on their final flights. The shuttles delivered more than 15 tons of supplies necessary for working and living aboard the station, as well as the new cosmic ray detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.
A veteran of three space flights, Coleman has logged 179 days in space. Nespoli has chalked up 174 days in space on his two flights while Kondratyev completed his first space mission.
Expedition 28 Commander Andrey Borisenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Flight Engineers Ron Garan of NASA and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev remain aboard the station, as well as the crew of Endeavour.
Three new Expedition 28 crew members, Soyuz Commander Sergei Volkov, NASA Flight Engineer Mike Fossum and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa, will launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in their Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft at 2.15 a.m. local time on June 8 and later dock to the ISS.