Astronauts return to Earth from space station mission
Two NASA astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut returned to Earth yesterday, rounding off a mission of more than five months aboard the International Space Station.
Alexander Misurkin of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency and NASA’s Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba touched down on steppe land southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan at the expected time of 0231 GMT.
“All descent and landing operations went according to plan. The crew members that have returned to Earth are feeling well,” Roscosmos said in a statement.
Misurkin, 40, who handed over command of the International Space Station to compatriot Anton Shkaplerov on Tuesday and took charge of the Soyuz descent module carrying the trio down to Earth has spent 334 days in space over two flights.
He was in buoyant mood on the way down, telling Russian Mission control he felt “better than anyone,” and was the first crew member to emerge out of the spacecraft onto the snow-covered steppe.
Following him out of the craft that landed upright were Acaba, 50, who has now racked up some 10 months in orbit over three missions and his 51-year-old colleague Vande Hei, who was in space for the first time.
Both NASA astronauts were active on Twitter while aboard the ISS, while Misurkin eschewed the micro-blogging platform.
Puerto Rican native Acaba on Sunday tweeted a photo of his hands framing the Earth as viewed from the ISS’s famous “Cupola” observation module.
“The future of our home is in all of our hands. May we all care for #Earth and practice good stewardship,” he wrote.
Ex-military man Vande Hei took to the micro-blogging platform to share his love of sports, taking in both the American football Superbowl and the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics while aboard the orbital lab.
The ISS laboratory, a rare example of American and Russian international cooperation, has been orbiting Earth at about 28,000 kilometers per hour since 1998.