Three ISS Crew Back Home, While Six Remain in Space

Three ISS Crew Back Home, While Six Remain in Space

Three International Space Station (ISS) crew members returned to Earth tonight in their Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft.   Six colleagues remain aboard the orbiting laboratory.

NASA’s Karen Nyberg, Russia’s Fyodor Yurchikhin and the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Luca Parmitano landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 9:49 pm Eastern Standard Time (8:49 am Monday, November 11, local time at the landing site), completing a 166 day mission.  Perhaps the most memorable moment of the mission was Parmitano’s spacesuit filling with water while he was on a spacewalk on July 16.  He later gave chilling details of the incident in a blog post.  NASA is still trying to determine exactly what went wrong.

Among the cargo the crew returned to Earth tonight was the Olympic torch, which is making its way to the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.  The torch was delivered to the ISS on Thursday by the Soyuz TMA-11M crew.   The two Russian members of the Soyuz TMA-10M crew took it on a spacewalk yesterday, and the Soyuz TMA-09 crew brought it home today.  Yurchikhin was the first crewmember removed from the Soyuz (as Soyuz commander he sits in the center seat, the first to be extracted). The Olympic torch was also removed quickly by recovery personnel and handed to Yurchikhin for photo opps like this one.

Photo credit:  NASA

Having three three-person crews aboard the ISS at once is unusual, and with the departure of the Soyuz TMA-09M crew, ISS is now back to its normal complement of six:  NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio; Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, Sergey Ryazanskiy, and Mikhail Tyurin; and Japan’s Koichi Wakata.   Wakata will become the first Japanese to command the ISS later in his mission.  This is Wakata’s fourth space mission — three space shuttle missions plus a long duration tour on ISS in 2009.


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