Expedition 38 Crew Lands Safely In Kazakhstan After 166 Days On ISS
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, along with his Russian colleagues Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy safely landed in Kazakhstan at 11:24 p.m. EDT on Monday – ending Expedition 38 aboard the International Space Station, according to a statement from the American space agency.
The return marked the end of a first trip into space for both Hopkins and Ryazanskiy that lasted 166 days. For his part, Hopkins executed a couple of spacewalks that added up to 12 hours and 58 minutes outside the ISS. Ryazanskiy carried out three spacewalks during his mission, doing work outside the ISS for 20 hours and 5 minutes.
“One of the great things about leaving home is coming home,” Hopkins said in a NASA interview before leaving the ISS. “Being reunited with my family, I think, is going to be absolutely wonderful.”
“Until you actually get up here and experience it, you can only imagine what it’s like, and it truly is incredible,” he added. “When you can float through a module in any kind of orientation, when you can work on tasks in any kind of orientation, it’s truly exciting.”
Officials had expressed concerns about severe weather around the landing site, but Russian managers approved the return trip after analyzing weather patterns and checking with landing crews on the ground.
While aboard the space station, Hopkins accompanied NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio on a pair of Expedition 38 spacewalks to fix the station’s cooling system by installing a new ammonia pump on the station’s exterior. The astronauts began the first spacewalk Dec. 21 to eliminate a degraded pump and concluded setting up the new pump module during a second spacewalk on Christmas Eve.
On their spacewalks, Ryazanskiy and Kotov installed photographic gear, essential cables, extracted finished external tests and set up new scientific gear. The Russians also set up robotic arm functions on the station’s Russian segment.
More notably, the Russian duo’s first spacewalk happened on Nov. 9 when they passed the Olympic torch along its first ever trip into outer space. The torch was delivered back to Earth the following day and eventually used to light the Olympic flame Feb. 7 at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
The Expedition 38 crew left behind Mastracchio, Japan’s Koichi Wakata and Russia’s Mikhail Tyurin – considered to be Expedition 39. This crew arrived on Nov. 7 and is scheduled to return to Earth in May.
“I am humbled to assume command of the space station,” Wakata, the first-ever Japanese station commander, told the members of Expedition 38. “We will continue to keep station operations safe, efficient and fun as you guys led us to do. So have a safe return and we’ll catch you back on the planet in a couple of months.”
Expedition 39/40 crew members Steve Swanson, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev are currently finishing their training in Star City, Russia and are slated to head up to the ISS on March 25 aboard a Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft, launching from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.