Three astronauts from the International Space Station made it back to Earth safely on board the Russian spacecraft Soyuz. NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko spent close to six months at the space station before ending their run.
The three men launched to space for Expedition 49/50 mission in October 2016. After 173 days, they reached the ground on April 10 at 7:20 a.m. EDT (1120 GMT) in Kazakhstan, Space.com reports.
Rob Navias, a spokesperson from NASA, said during a live NASA commentary,
It was a textbook touchdown. The Soyuz was pulled by its main parachute onto its side, but the crew was quickly extracted and are in good shape.
The people monitoring the event at Mission Control and on NASA TV agreed, saying that the video of the spacecraft’s descent and landing on the cloudless steppe was “some of the most spectacular video we’ve ever seen.” There were around 14 minutes of footage taken, from the chutes deploying to the astronauts touching down.
Before he left, Kimbrough transferred command of the ISS to Peggy Whitson from NASA, making her the first female to command the space station two times. Whitson was also the ISS’ first female commander in 2008.
Ryzhikov, for whom this was a first space mission, commanded the Soyuz. It was the second for Kimbrough and Borisenko. The three astronauts brought with them science samples, cargo and personal items, NASA’s blog reports.
The Soyuz is currently the only spacecraft that can bring humans to the space station and dock, and the entire trip took less than the two days it took the astronauts to travel up inOctober.
Still on the ISS are Whitson, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy. They will soon be joined by NASA’s Jack Fischer and Russia’s Fyodor Yurchikhin, who are greenlit to launch on April 20 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.