[WATCH VIDEO: Expedition 33 Crew Returns]
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
After spending 127 days in space and 125 days aboard the International Space Station, the three members of Expedition 33 have landed safely in their Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft north of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan at 7:56 a.m. Kazakhstan time on November 19 (7:56 p.m. EST Nov. 18).
Commander Sunita Williams, and Flight Engineers Akihiko Hoshide and Yuri Malenchenko, wrapped up their 4-month mission, which began on July 15, and headed home for a pre-dawn landing. This was the first dark landing for a station crew since April 6, 2006, when Expedition 12 crew members returned.
Before disembarking from the Space Station, Williams officially handed over the reins to Kevin Ford, who now becomes Commander of Expedition 34. Ford and his crew, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin, arrived at the station on October 25 and will remain as a skeleton crew until Soyuz brings three new members to the orbiting lab in December.
While aboard the Space Station, Williams and her team advanced the scope of research by conducting several experiments in physical science, Earth observation and technology demonstrations. Notable research included radiation level testing, assessing the effects of microgravity on the spinal cord, and investigating dynamic processes of Earth, such as glacial melt and ecosystem impacts.
The crew also participated in high-intensity, low-volume exercise training through an innovative new technique called the Integrated Resistance and Aerobic Training Study-Sprint. This experiment was designed to test how to prevent loss of muscle, bone and cardiovascular functions while in space.
The Expedition 33 crew also managed a number of resupply visits to the station. The most notable was the inaugural supply mission for SpaceX. Also, the crew participated in several challenging spacewalks, one of which lasted more than 6 hours, as Williams and Hoshide tried to repair a leaky radiator.
During their time aboard the Space Station, Williams and her crew orbited the Earth 2,032 times and traveled more than 54 million miles. Williams ranks sixth for the longest amount of days (322) spent in space by an American; she ranks 2nd for a female. Williams also holds the record for the most cumulative time spent on spacewalks by a female: a total of 50 hours and 40 minutes. Malenchenko has spent 642 days in space over five flights.