Monday, November 30, 2009
A Russian Soyuz spacecraft departed the International Space Station with a crew of three following a six month stay, leaving the station a quieter place to live and work.
Orbiting the earth from 220 miles over deep southern Russia near eastern Mongolia, Belgian Frank De Winne, Canadian Robert Thirsk and Russian Roman Romanenko separated from the station at 10:56 pm EST, this evening (9:56 am Dec. 1st Kazakhstan time).
The trio's departure means that the station's crew size has dwindled down to two.
Not since July 2006 have their been just two crew members manning the orbital outpost. Last week, twelve humans were working and living on the station while Atlantis was docked on her resupply mission.
Following several hours of rocket firings to separate away from the station and place the Soyuz in it's proper alignment for landing, the spacecraft is scheduled to touchdown 80 Km north of the town of Arkalyk in central Kazakhstan at 2:15 am EST, December 1.
Tuesday morning's Soyuz landing will be the first Soyuz to land in Kazakhstan in the month of December since 1990 when the Soyuz 10 spacecraft landed following a mission to the MIR space station.
A few days before Christmas, the space station will receive new residents as the current two man Expedition 22 crew of American Jeff Williams and Russian Max Suraev welcome the Soyuz TMA 17's crew of three: Russian Oleg Kotov, American T.J. Creamer, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.