ISS astronauts land safely back on Earth

12 Jun 2015

The Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 43 commander Terry Virts of NASA, cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti from European Space Agency (ESA) near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Image via ESA–S. Corvaja.

Astronauts Samantha Cristoforetti (ESA), Terry Virts (NASA) and Anton Shkapleroy (Roscosmos) safely landed in Kazakhstan yesterday following their three-hour descent from their six-month stay on the International Space Station (ISS).

Cruising at around 28,800km/h, the trio aboard the Soyuz capsule slowed down before parachutes helped reduce speed even more and retrorockets ensured their safe delivery back down to Earth.

While floating around above our heads, Cristoforetti smashed a load of space records when on the ISS, spending the longest single time in space for an ESA astronaut and female astronauts in general.

Samantha Cristoforetti back on Earth, via ESA-S. Corvaja

Samantha Cristoforetti back on Earth, via ESA-S. Corvaja

While aboard the ISS, Cristoforetti was responsible for packing the versatile Automated Transfer Vehicle Georges Lemaître spacecraft, docking and undocking it, doing a similar job on two SpaceX Dragon ferries (using the ISS’s robotic arm) and conducted two spacewalks.

A long stay aboard the International Space Station

Virts, Cristoforetti and Shkaplerov spent 199 days aboard the space station and clocked almost 84 million miles during their time in space.

Virts has logged 212 days in space on two flights, the first of which was on space shuttle mission STS-130 in 2010. Shkaplerov has spent 364 days in space on two flights, the first of which was on Expedition 29/30 in 2011. This was Cristoforetti’s first flight into space.

They leave behind NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka to look after the Station and run experiments. Scott and Mikhail are almost a third of the way through their almost one-year stay in space.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic