Space Station Sunday: Wins Of The One-Year Crew (Part One)

Good afternoon, space fans!  It was a historic week for our friends in's what was up!

The fun part, after all that "plummeting on fire through the atmosphere" stuff.
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On Tuesday evening, shortly before midnight, the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft that ferried astronaut Scott Kelly, cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, and cosmonaut / Soyuz pilot Sergey Volkov back to earth made a textbook landing on a barren steppe of Kazakhstan.  This concluded the "space" portion of the One-Year Mission, in which Kelly and Kornienko had lived on the ISS for 340 consecutive days.

This is your Soyuz spacecraft...
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...and this is your Soyuz spacecraft on drugs Earth.
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All three spacemen were healthy and in good spirits, with Kelly immediately remarking on how good the (subzero, blasting) Kazakh wind felt on his face.  After being cooped up in a tin can for a year, even a frigid breeze is a good one.

"What's with the furry hats, comrades?  It feels awesome out here!"  -Scott Kelly, probably.
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"Shut up Kelly, furry hats kick ass.  To the med tent, Mikhail!"
Cosmonaut Kornienko, still regaining his "Earth legs", is bundled off for scientific analysis.
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"...and by the way, fuck bone density loss."
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"I have exactly two limbs that can currently thwart gravity,
and this is the one I can show for the news cameras."
-Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, probably.
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Also on hand for the landing was a special guest, legendary Soviet cosmonaut Alexander "Sasha" Volkov...a.k.a. Sergey's dad.

"Remember when I taught you how to drive...A SPACESHIP?"
Sasha (left) and Sergey Volkov (right) share a special moment upon landing.
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Meanwhile, on the station, Expedition 47 officially commenced after hearing news that the Soyuz had landed safely.  Kelly had conducted a traditional Change Of Command ceremony some hours previous on the ISS, handing over the helm to NASA astronaut Tim Kopra.

"All yours, dude.  Just keep turning left, and don't hit the big blue rock."
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Not long after his vertical descent into Kazakhstan, Kelly continued travelling, heading back to the United States to arrive at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas the following night.  He was greeted in the most American fashion possible, with a cheering crowd and the Second Lady bringing him a welcome-home gift of beer and apple pie.  Also present were Dr. John Holdren (Assistant to the President for Science and Technology), NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Kelly’s identical twin brother Mark (a former NASA astronaut and shuttle commander himself), former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (Mark's wife), and other members of Kelly’s family.

You know you've just done something legendary
when the Second Lady of the United States is making beer runs for you.
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However, the scientific assessments inherent to the mission will still be keeping Kelly on his freshly re-gravitated, baby-soft-due-to-no-actual-walking-for-a-year toes.  The historic mission will offer a wealth of biological information regarding the human ability to live in space for extended periods of time.  Nearly every aspect of Scott's physical and mental life will be examined to better understand the similarities and changes that he underwent while up in orbit.

And of course, they check for alien microbes.
You know, just in case.
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Aside from the copious scientific info, one of the most noteworthy elements of Kelly's sojourn on the station was his portfolio of "Earth Art", which fans have been assembling into albums of favorites in tribute.

This is one of our personal favorites, mostly because we were outside, waving.
Up by the bridge there.  Yeah, that's us.
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The images are as magnificent as the mission itself, which has been spawning inspirational image macros for some time now.

Warp speed?  Well...we're trying.
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NASA's Flickr account has more images from behind the scenes of the return voyage.  Kelly's own accrued pictures are featured on his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, all bearing some absolutely stunning sights, and often some good advice.

"Take a leap and explore new possibilities! Good morning and Happy Leap Day
from the International Space Station! #YearInSpace."
(Image courtesy Scott Kelly.)

Shortly before leaving the station on Tuesday, Kelly posted this image to social media, saying,
"Thank you for following our ‪#‎YearInSpace‬! The journey isn't over.
Follow me as I rediscover Earth. See you down below!"
Thanks for your space service, sir.
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This mission was so groundbreaking, we're going to continue this next week, with even more information on how Kelly is readjusting to Earth life, what his most memorable space experiences were like, and what his mission will mean in the greater context of making human life better here and afar...because all of us Earthlings kind of need that right now.  Watch this space!

For real.
(Image courtesy the Eagle Tribune.)

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