Space Station Sunday: Back To Earth For Expedition 40/41

Astronaut Gerst's (L) "favorite space selfie."  Great work, Expedition 40/41!
(Image courtesy

Good evening, space fans!  The upcoming week will be bringing some changes to the ISS.  Most notably, the three crew of Expedition 40/41 - NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, and Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev -  will be returning to Earth this evening in a Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft that had been docked on the station.

Astronaut Gerst's captivating and entertaining space photos will be missed.
(Image courtesy 

The perpetually-enthusiastic Gerst - who claims he will miss doing backflips while he brushes his teeth, but is excited to be able to soon run in forests again - posted the above image to his social media outlets today.  The image was captioned, "Thanks to all of you for flying to space with me, it's been a blast. I am glad we did this together!" So are we, @Astro_Alex.  Danke.

Astronaut Wiseman documented some of his final time on the mission with a fly-through video of the ISS, showcasing the tight quarters but fun floatability of life in the orbital laboratory.  Travelling at 18,000 miles an hour is a whole new kind of life in the fast lane, but the astronauts' cheerful spirits and dedication to progress shine through in their work.

The entire crew also took an official group photo to commemorate their successful mission.  Congratulations, crew!
Fancy dress on the ISS (pants striped with velcro for keeping floaty items close by are a must for ISS fashion.)
(Image courtesy

The Soyuz spacecraft was tested by the returning astronauts during the week to make certain there were no leaks or other problems. Their spacesuits underwent similar assessment and were found to be in fine condition. Aside from the likelihood of snow in their Kazahkstan landing zone, the astronauts should have a safe flight home. 

During their time on the ISS, the Expedition 40/41 crew had conducted an array of research, ranging from combustion experiments to diverse biological analysis to sticking a GoPro in a giant floating ball of water (as seen below.)

The astronauts' progress, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel, has been positive so far, and they are slated to be back on-planet around 11 p.m. EST.  The reentry process, according to the ESA, will be exciting:  "Their bumpy ride begins as they hit the atmosphere and they jettison parts of their spacecraft. Parachutes will deploy and retrorockets will fire an instant before touchdown to slow them down for a dramatic but safe landing."

Welcome back to gravity, spacemen!  Soon, a new multinational three-astronaut team will head on up to join the three remaining ISS astronauts (American Butch Wilmore and Russians Alexander Samokutyaev and Yelena Serova.)  We can't wait to see what happens this space!

Cosmonaut Max Suraev doesn't look like he wants to go home yet.
(Image courtesy

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