Space Station Sunday: Many Happy Returns

Good evening space fans!  After 165 days in orbit, the three crewmen of Expedition 41 were safely re-embraced in the grasp of gravity last Sunday night.  The Soyuz landing craft departed the ISS flawlessly and touched down in Kazahkstan some 3 hours later, returning NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, and cosmonaut Maxim Suraev back to their home planet.

The outside looks crispy...

...but the crew stayed cool.  Here, Reid Wiseman is shown before he's regained the use of his Earth-legs.
(Images courtesy

In a video interview with NASA public relations officer Dan Huot conducted shortly after the landing, Wiseman lauded the tight-knit crew's scientific diligence, and was quoted as saying, "The ride {back} was awesome."

According to, NASA astronaut Terry Virst, ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, and cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov are currently in residence at the Cosmonaut Hotel near the Baikonur launch facility in Kazahkstan, conducting fit checks and preparing for their launch to the station next Sunday.  The team will ride in a Soyux TMA-15M to the ISS to join the three Expedition 42 crewmembers at their floating post.

Go team!  Safe travels.
(Image courtesy the ESA's Flickr.)

Meanwhile, the three crew remaining aboard the ISS remained busy, with Commander Butch Wilmore (NASA) working in the Destiny module on the Seedling Growth experiment, which analyzes new ways for food and oxygen to be cultivated in space.  Plants are subjected to different wavelengths of light (red waves being longer, blue being shorter) during growth, and then compared with similarly-controlled plants' data (including genetic information) back on earth.

Human biological science was also assessed, with Wilmore collecting blood and urine samples, and cosmonauts Yelena Serova and Alexander Samokutyaev undergoing hearing tests.  All data collected will be, among other observations, part of an ongoing study that determines how microgravity affects humans.

Cosmonauts Samokutyaev and Serova transferred cargo from the recently-arrived Progress 57 resupply ship into the appropriate locations on the ISS.  Wilmore pitched in with the heavy "lifting" too, when taking "out" a bag of trash.

Floating garbage only works well in a contained space environment.  In NYC it'd get horrifying really fast.
(Image courtesy

A small piece of space debris from a Chinese satellite prompted the ISS to make a Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM) on Wednesday, according to NASA.  Swooping the station out of the path of the spent Yaogan 12 satellite, the maneuver also put the station in better orbital alignment for the upcoming Expedition 42 arrival.  The station now currently resides at 262.3 x 252.0 statute miles up.

Stay tuned for the arrival of the new Expedition 42 crew next week!  Watch this space!

The Expedition 41 team were greeted with a traditional Kazakh ceremony, but is seeing the world up close still as interesting after having been aloft for so long?
(Image courtesy

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