After 165 days in space, three ISS crew members returned safely to Earth Sunday, landing safely in Kazakhstan.
Around 10:00 Sunday morning 3 crew members from the International Space Station (ISS) returned to Earth, touching down in Kazakhstan. They broke through the atmosphere into the chilly morning air and touched down with a smooth, uneventful landing.
At 7:31 EST three members of the crew that had been on the ISS boarded their Soyuz spacecraft and departed from their orbital outpost. After a 3½-hour journey they reached Earth in the early morning hours, northeast of Arkalyk. On a live NASA Television broadcast of the landing mission, commentator Rob Navias said that the early-morning temperatures in Kazakhstan registered just 23 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 degrees Celsius).
NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, Maxim Suraev of the Russian space agency, and German flight engineer Alexander Gerst from the European Space Agency were all greeted after landing, by a recovery crew that awaited them. The crew had been in space for 166 days, had traveled over 70 million miles, and orbited Earth 2,656 times.
So what were they doing up there?
Wiseman, Surav, and Gerst had been on the space station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 260 miles (418 km) above Earth, since May 28th. While in orbit the crew participated in research focusing on Earth remote sensing, advanced manufacturing, and studies of bone and muscle physiology.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to spend 165 days up here. With that said, I’m looking forward to heading home,” Wiseman said during a change-of-command ceremony carried live from the space station on NASA Television.
The last few months of their mission were no doubt the busiest. In July Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft completed its second resupply mission under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, then in September SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft was launched to the ISS. While in orbit crew members Wiseman and Gerst completely planned spacewalks outside the ISS.
There were a few new toys that accompanied the crew when they arrived on the ISS in may, including first 3-D printer to be tested in space as part of In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) technology explorations and a new Earth monitoring instrument called RapidScat. The ISS, which is owned by a partnership of 15 nations, serves as a in-space technology hub for everything space and technology related.
“They say this is the most complex machine that humanity has ever built,” Gerst said on Saturday. “Even after half a year on board, it is impossible for me to fathom how complex it is to actually operate this machine.”
The International Space Station (ISS) has been permanently staffed since Nov. 2, 2000.