According to NASA’s public release, a three-manned crew from the International space Station (ISS) safely landed Thursday in the steppes of Kazakhstan where the Russian Baikonur Cosmodrome lies.
European Space Agency’s Samantha Cristoforetti, NASA’s astronaut Terry Virts, and Anton Shkaplerov from Russia returned to their home planet after a longer than expected stint on the space station.
The three astronauts were forced to stay on ISS nearly one more month after a malfunction at a Soyuz rocket designed to carry crew from and to the ISS. So, the trio ended their 199 day stay in space this Thursday.
Due to the delay, Ms. Cristoforetti is now the woman with the longest single space flight record (199 days, 16 hours), a record that was previously held by NASA astronaut Sunita Williams (196 days).
NASA reported that Thursday’s landing went according to schedule. The team landed at 9:44 p.m. EDT at nearly 90 miles away from the city of Dzhezkazgan. One NASA representative described the return as a “textbook” landing.
After the capsule managed to soft land, Russian helicopters brought emergency and medical crews to help the ISS crew get out of the vehicle and quickly asses their health condition.
The astronauts were carried into an inflatable tent where they received medical checks. Doctors explained that their bodies needed to recover from the shock of exiting zero gravity and readapt to Earth’s conditions.
Despite difficulties all three astronauts kept smiling and seemed happy to return home.
“I’m doing great. I feel really good,”
NASA’s Virts said.
In the tent, the three astronauts agreed to be subjected to various tests meant to measure their balance and navigation skills. NASA explained that the tests would help the agency gather more info on the mechanisms the human body employs to re-adapt to gravity. The U.S. space agency also said that the data would help them with preparation of future space missions to Mars.
After the medical checks, the trio were flown to Karaganda where they will take planes to their home countries.
The delay was caused by an unsuccessful launch of a Russian cargo ship a couple of months ago. The Soyuz was designed to carry crews, so space officials from Russia ruled that it was safer to delay the return of the three astronauts.
In late July, another crew will head to the ISS on a Russian cargo ship, while earlier in the month Russians would launch again a cargo ship to the station. The new crew would meet with Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka from Russia and with NASA’s Scott Kelly who are currently on the space station for a yearlong mission.
Image Source: The Sydney Morning Herald