NASA astronaut, two Russian cosmonauts touchdown safely in Kazakhstan. Photo Credit: NASA TV
Russia's 30 Soyuz mission spacecraft departed the International Space Station late Sunday, descending safely to Earth in Kazakhstan with three U.S. and Russia crew members.
The descent of the TMA-03M capsule under parachute ended a 125-day mission for NASA's Joe Acaba and Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin, of the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos, while bringing a a conclusion to the 32nd ISS Expedition.
Command of the ISS transitioned from Padalka to U. S. astronaut Sunita Williams, with the departure of the Soyuz capsule from the station's Russian segment Poisk module at 7:09 p.m., EDT. Williams, a U. S. Navy Captain, becomes the second woman to assume command of the orbiting science laboratory.
In 2007, she established the current record of 195 days in space for a woman during her first space station assignment. Padalka departed after an unprecedented third command of the ISS.
Padalka, Acaba and Revin touched down aboard the Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft north of Arkalyk in Kazakstan at 10:53 p.m., EDT, or 8:53 a.m., local time.
Williams remains aboard the station for the start of Expedition 33 with flight engineers Yuri Malenchenko of Russia, and Akihiko Hoshide of Japan. They're scheduled to be joined by U. S. astronaut Kevin Ford and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin on Oct. 17, or two days after they lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the 32 mission Soyuz spacecraft.
The returning station crew's tour of duty was was marked by the first U.S. commercial re-supply mission, carried out by the SpaceX Dragon in May, and the August spacewalks by Padalka and Malenchenko and Williams and Hoshide. The Russian outing readied the station for the eventual arrival of Russia's Nauka multi-purpose science module.
The station crew also participated in, or oversaw, more than 100 multi-national science experiments and engineering demonstrations.
Acaba, Padalka and Revin were greeted quickly after their landing by helicopter born Russian recovery forces and NASA medical personnel and managers.
They were to fly by Russian helicopter from the landing site to Kostanay. There, they were to split after resting and further medical checks.
Acaba was to board a NASA jet bound for Houston and NASA's Johnson Space Center. Padalka and Revin were to fly to Star City, Russia, aboard a second transport.