Soyuz spacecraft safely landed on the Kazakhstan steppe Wednesday, wrapping up a five-month stay aboard the International Space Station. Expedition 26: Commander Scott Kelly, Russian Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka.
Kaleri, the Soyuz commander, was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked at 12:27 a.m. EDT from the station’s Poisk module. The trio landed at 3:54 a.m. (1:54 p.m. local time) at a site northeast of the town of Arkalyk.
Working in frigid temperatures, Russian recovery teams were on hand to help the crew exit the Soyuz and adjust to gravity. Kaleri and Skripochka will return to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, outside of Moscow, while Kelly will fly directly home to Houston.
The trio launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Oct. 8, 2010. As members of the Expedition 25 and 26 crews, they spent 159 days in space, 157 of them aboard the station.
During their mission, the Expedition 25 and 26 crew members worked on more than 150 microgravity experiments in human research; biology and biotechnology; physical and materials sciences; technology development; and Earth and space sciences.
A quick succession of international space vehicles arrived on the station’s loading docks during Expedition 26. The Japanese Kounotori2, or “white stork,” H-II Transfer Vehicle 2; the Russian cargo ship Progress 41; the European Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle; and space shuttle Discovery delivered more than 11 tons of supplies necessary for working and living aboard the station.
Kelly has logged more than 180 days in space, and Kaleri has more than 770. Skripochka has completed his first space mission. Expedition 27 Commander and Russian Cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and Flight Engineers Cady Coleman of NASA and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency remain aboard the station.
A new trio of Expedition 27 flight engineers, NASA astronaut Ron Garan and Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev, will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome no earlier than March 29.
For more information about the space station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station