After spending 6 months onboard International Space Station (ISS), three astronauts returned home safely today, rich with experience and data collected from their space experiments.
The NASA Expedition’s crew returned after a 167-day mission at the ISS that included several scientific experiments and spacewalks to prepare the ISS for future arrivals by the US commercial space vehicles.
The crew included Commander Barry Wilmore of NASA and flight engineers Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) who touched down in a capsule southeast of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.
Some of the experiments conducted by the team included testing the effects of microgravity on cells, the Earth observation, physical science and biological and molecular science.
A major study was human health management for long-duration space living and travel, as both NASA and Roscosmos prepare for two crew members to spend one year aboard the ISS space station, which also serves as a test bed to demonstrate new technology.
The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) may lead to enhancements to spacecraft launches, landings and communications systems; help future probes of Mars, Jupiter or other planets and help researchers model and predict climate changes on the Earth.
The ISS team also received while aboard three cargo spacecraft with several tonnes of scientific investigations, food, fuel and other supplies, including the latest SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on the company’s fifth contracted commercial resupply mission to the station in January.
The Dragon returned to the Earth in February with important science samples. During their stay aboard the ISS, Wilmore ventured outside the space station with NASA astronaut Terry Virts on three spacewalks to prepare for new international docking adapters and future US commercial crew spacecraft that was broadcast live on NASA TV.
The Expedition 43 is now aboard the ISS and is currently operating the station, with Terry Virts in command with flight engineers Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) focusing on research and operations until three new crewmates arrive in two weeks time from now.
The space station orbits the Earth about every 90 minutes, which means it circles around the Earth 16 times every day and astronauts can see 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets daily. During the daylight, temperatures touch 200ºC, while temperatures in the night drop to -200 ºC.