The latest astronauts to return from their six-month service on the International Space Station (ISS) have landed safely in the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.
Commander Barry Wilmore of US space agency NASA and flight engineers Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) landed yesterday morning, ending 167 days of space missions and projects.
While floating above our heads, the trio took part in research on microgravity on cells, Earth observation, physical science, and biological and molecular science.
Key to their time on the ISS, which was Expedition 42, was investigating the management of health for long-duration space travel, as the first two astronauts prepare for a year-long mission.
It’s been six months of change on the ISS, with SpaceX’s relatively recent introduction to the commercial space flight industry bringing a new stream of supplies and research devices onboard.
The trio are cared for after the landing. Image via NASA
Also, back in November, Samantha Cristoforetti (European Space Agency), Terry Virts (NASA) and Anton Shkaplerov (Roscosmos) boarded ISS for their stint (all three are still up in the skies as part of Expedition 43) bringing with them a coffee machine and a 3D printer, both revolutionising astronauts’ stay up there – presumably to differing degrees.
The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System arrived and was installed during Expedition 42, and is already providing data to improve scientists’ understanding of the structure and evolution of Earth's atmosphere. This may eventually help researchers model and predict climate changes on Earth.
Wilmore did three spacewalks while up in the skies, while Samokutyaev’s stay was his second aboard, chalking up a whopping 331 days in space.
They were sent nice messages from colleagues ahead of their descent, with former ISS dweller Reid Wiseman showing just what it’s like in the capsule as it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere.
— Reid Wiseman (@astro_reid) March 11, 2015
— Sam Cristoforetti (@AstroSamantha) March 11, 2015
NASA’s Scott Kelly and Roscosmos’ Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka are scheduled to head up to the ISS later this month, with Kelly and Kornienko destined for a year aboard – a key step in the ultimate goal of sending man to Mars. They look like a pretty cool duo …
— NASA (@NASA) March 12, 2015