NASA’s Chris Cassidy, Russians Return To Earth After Space Station Mission

Lawrence LeBlond for – Your Universe Online

A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying three members of Expedition 36 touched down in the remote wilderness of Kazakhstan at 10:58 p.m. EDT Tuesday evening (8:58 a.m. Kazakh time). NASA’s Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos’ Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin were onboard the capsule as it parachuted safely back to Earth, successfully wrapping up 166 days in space.

The trio launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on March 29, racking up 2,656 Earth orbits and traversing more than 50 million miles. During their time aboard the ISS, the crew conducted a number of EVA (extra-vehicular activity) missions. Vinogradov marked his seventh walk in space after completing a single walk during the Expedition 36 mission. He has spent a total of 38 hours and 25 minutes on EVAs. Misurkin conducted three spacewalks bringing his total EVA time to 20 hours and one minute. Cassidy also conducted three spacewalks bringing his career total to six with 31 hours and 14 minutes floating in the silence of space.

Besides taking regular walks outside the ISS, the crew also conducted hundreds of experiments within the confines of the orbiting lab. They were also witness to the docking of the Europe’s ATV-4 cargo spacecraft (Albert Einstein), the Japanese HTV-4 cargo vessel and two Russian Progress resupply ships.

As for total time in space, Vinogradov’s time on this mission puts him 10th on the all-time endurance list, marking 547 days in space. Cassidy’s 166 days in space greatly adds to his previous time in space, which was accounted for only a tenth of the current mission, bringing his total space time to 182 days. This was Misurkin’s first stint in space.

Prior to their scheduled departure of the ISS, Vinogradov officially handed over the reins of the ISS to Fyodor Yurchikhin during a traditional Change of Command Ceremony. Yurchikhin became Commander of Expedition 37 once the trio boarded the Soyuz TMA-08M capsule and undocked from the ISS.

Along with Commander Yurchikhin, Expedition 37 comprises NASA’s Karen Nyberg and ATI’s Luca Parmitano, who will remain on the ISS as a skeleton crew until a new crew arrives in the coming weeks.

Parmitano, who also conducted two spacewalks during the Expedition 36 phase of his time in space, was accompanied by Cassidy on his second spacewalk, which abruptly ended due to a leak discovered inside Parmitano’s helmet, potentially drowning him in space. After returning to the ISS unharmed, the cause of the malfunction was extensively studied; the most likely scenario was that his spacesuit cooling system failed, yet there is no official cause in the books.

Parmitano also became the first Italian to conduct a spacewalk, when he ventured out into the cold, dark vacuum of space on July 9, 2013.

A few days before departing the ISS, Cassidy, who is originally from York, Maine, took some time to talk with Maine’s CBS affiliate WGME 13.

During an exclusive satellite interview, Cassidy explained that his time aboard the ISS has literally “flown” by. He said he would miss the views from space, but was ready to return home to see his friends and family in Maine.

Image Below: In preparation for the Expedition 36 return to Earth, Commander Pavel Vinogradov of Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) handed over control of the International Space Station Monday, Sept. 9, 2013 at 2:25 p.m. EDT in a traditional Change of Command Ceremony. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin will take over command and officially lead Expedition 37 when Expedition 36 undocks Tuesday at 7:35 p.m. In the bottom half of this photo, left to right, are Vinogradov and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg of NASA and Misurkin. In the top half of the photo are, left to right, Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency, Cassidy, and Yurchikhin. This photo was taken on June 8, 2013. Credit: NASA