November 26, 2010

Returning ISS Crew Members Successfully Land Thursday

A Soyuz spacecraft carrying a Russian cosmonaut and a pair of American astronauts safely touched down near the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan late Thursday evening.

The three-person crew--Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker of NASA--landed at 11:46pm EST (10:46am on Friday, in local time) following a five-month stay on board the International Space Station (ISS). With Yurchikhin at the helm, the trio departed from the ISS at 8:23pm EST and landed within 1.5km of their target area.

"The condition of the crew is completely satisfactory--blood pressure, pulse, oxygen are all in the allowable limits," Vyacheslav Rogozhnikov of the Institute of Medical-Biological Problems told members of the media from Russian mission control just outside Moscow, the Associated Press reported Friday, citing Russian news agency ITAR-Tass.

According to NASA, Yurchikhin will now return to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, which is located just outside of Moscow. Wheelock and Walker, on the other hand, were scheduled to fly home to Houston.

"The trio launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on June 15," the U.S. space agency said in a statement on Thursday. "As members of the Expedition 24 and 25 crews, they spent 163 days in space, 161 of them aboard the station, and celebrated the 10th anniversary of continuous human life, work and research by international crews aboard the station on Nov. 2."

"During their mission, the Expedition 24 and 25 crew members worked on more than 120 microgravity experiments in human research; biology and biotechnology; physical and materials sciences; technology development; and Earth and space sciences," NASA added. "The astronauts also responded to an emergency shutdown of half of the station's external cooling system and supported three unplanned spacewalks"¦ to replace the faulty pump module that caused the shutdown."

The ISS crew now consists of Scott Kelly, the commander of Expedition 26, as well as Roscosmos flight engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka of the Russian Federal Space Agency. Three additional flight engineers--cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman, and European Space Agency (ESA) member Paolo Nespoli--are set to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 15 and dock on the space station two days later.


Image Caption: The Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft with Expedition 25 Commander Doug Wheelock and Flight Engineers Shannon Walker and Fyodor Yurchikhin touches down near the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan on Friday, Nov. 26, 2010. Russian Cosmonaut Yurchikhin and NASA Astronauts Wheelock and Walker, are returning from six months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 24 and 25 crews. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls


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