Three of the International Space Station's six crew members, commander Dan Burbank, of NASA, and Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoli Ivanishin, Russian flight engineers, undocked from the orbiting science laboratory early Friday to signal their return to Earth after a 166-day mission.
Their 28 Soyuz space capsule undocked from the station's Russian Poisk module at 4:18 a.m, EDT.
After a 4 minute, 25 second braking maneuver, scheduled for 6:49 a.m., EDT, their TMA-22 spacecraft will began its descent to Earth. The three men are headed for a landing north of Arkalyck in Kazakhstan at 7:45 a.m., EDT.
Russian-led recovery forces, including NASA medical personnel, are pre- positioned in helicopters throughout the recovery zone to assist with the extraction of the three men from their TMA-22 spacecraft.
As Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin departed the orbital outpost, command of the station transitioned from Burbank to Russian Oleg Kononenko. The departure also marked the end of the station's Expedition 30.
Kononenko, NASA's Don Pettit and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers are scheduled to be joined in mid-May by three new U. S. and Russian crew members.