Expedition 37 crew return to Earth, ending six month stay on ISS
Expedition 37 crew members, Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano boarded their Soyuz spacecraft and have left the International Space Station. The orbiting, multi-national facility had been the trio’s home for the past six months (they arrived at the station in May).
A few hours after pulling their Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft away from the station’s Zvezda service module at 6:06 p.m. EST, at approximately 8:55 p.m. EST, the trio conducted a deorbit burn that placed them on the heading for home, or at least, the steppes of Kazakhstan. Touchdown on terra firma, took place 9:49 p.m. EST (8:49 a.m. Monday, Kazakh time).
The Expedition 37 crew brought back, among other things, the Olympic torch, which will be used to light the flame of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games which will be held in Sochi, Russia. Cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy had taken the torch “outdoors” yesterday, Saturday, Nov. 9.
During their 166 days in space, the trio orbited the Earth 2,656 times and traveled more than 70 million miles. For Parmitano, this mission also sealed his place in the history books as he became the first Italian to walk in space when he conducted his jaunt “outdoors” this past July.
Video courtesy of NASA Television
Expedition 37 crew members also jointly participated in a historic moment when they grappled and berthed Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus 1 spacecraft to the ISS. The unmanned cargo vessel, dubbed the David G. Low in honor of a former astronaut which had worked on the spacecraft was only the second “private” vehicle to dock with the ISS.
In terms of who has spent the most time on-orbit – Yurchikhin has got his compatriots beat hands down with a total of 537 days in space. Nyberg is second with 180. As this was Parmintano’s first mission, he has 166 days on his spaceflight resume.
The International Space Station has been orbiting Earth since 1998 and it has been permanently crewed since 2,000. The station is the combined effort of some 16 different member nations and is viewed as a premier research facility. The ISS conducts a wide-range of experiments in the microgravity environment, including research into possible cures for many diseases, ways to improve technology and grow stronger crop yields.
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Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.