Thursday, March 18, 2010

Crew Departs Space Station Returns Home

The Soyuz capsule lands safely today in snowy Kazakhstan (NASA)

The recent American commander of the International Space Station and his Russian flight engineer departed the orbital complex this morning following a busy six-month stay.

The outgoing Expedition 22 commander Jeffery Williams and cosmonaut Max Suraev said their goodbyes to the three fellow residents of the new Expedition 23 crew, and climbed aboard their Soyuz TMA16 spacecraft to begin the return trip home.

Undocking by the Soyuz from the Poisk Mini-Research Module occurred at 4:03 am EDT this morning, as the orbital duo flew 220 miles above the Mongolian border near Russia.

Unlike the space shuttle, the Soyuz time in orbit following a station undocking is brief.

The Soyuz, piloted by Suraev, spent two orbits of the earth dropping their altitude prior to their four-minute deorbit burn which began at 6:33 am.

Meanwhile, aboard the space station, new station commander Oleg Kotev, and flight engineers Soichi Noguchi of Japan and astronaut Timothy J. Creamer watched the live video coverage of the landing via their laptop computer.

The next landing event saw the Soyuz equipment section separate from the crew module twenty-five minutes later. This manuver set the module up for it's firery atmospheric reentry.

That warmth inside the crew module was plesent as it began it's plunge at 7:02 am, unlike the cold which which would later greet the space duo minutes later.

The weather was cold as the sun began to set as the crew module sat down in the remote site of north central Kazakhstan, near the town of Arkalyk.

A temperature of 21 degrees F and winds out of the southwest at 15 mph created a real feel temp of 0 degrees F for the rescue ground personal.

A vast recovery group of twelve MI military helicopters, a fixed-wing aircraft, medical teams and both NASA and Russian Space Agency personal were on hand for the landing.

A series of parachutes began slowing the spacecraft down and just before landing, several thrusters on the bottom of the Soyuz performed a soft-landing firing.

Landing upon the snow covered wide open area of Kazakhstan occurred on time at 7:24 am (1124 GMT), just 202 minutes following their station undocking.

Touchdown site was located at 50.4 degree
s North by 67.2 degrees East, or 60 km northeast of Arkalyk.

Seconds after landing, the Soyuz was buffeted by the winds and was tipped over on it's side and drug about twenty-five feet through three feet of snow.

During the next twenty minutes, as snow flurries began to coat the craft, recovery teams opened up the hatch, and removed W
illiams and Suraev and took them to a medical tent.

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