The American, Russian and German astronaut returned from the International Space Station at night (November 9), landing in Kazakhstan, spending a total of 165 days in orbit.
“What a trip it was,” NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman wrote on Twitter before Roscosmos cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst closed the hatch separating their Russian Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft from home, at 4:27. pm EST (21:27 GMT) on Sunday.
Three hours later, at 7:31 am EST (00:31 GMT), three crew members undocked the Union from the Rassvet mini-research orbital laboratory module. Their departure from the station was observed by crew members of 42 expeditions, led by Commander Butch Wilmore and cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova, who arrived on the ISS in September.
The crew of the Union started the engines at 10:05 pm EST (03:05 27 GMT).
After re-entering the atmosphere and descending by parachute, Wiseman, Suraev and Gerst landed on the cold steppe of Kazakhstan at 10:58 pm, northeast of the city of Arkalyk. The capsule landed in a vertical position, but the wind pulled the parachute and threw the ship on its side.
Bad weather conditions threatened to delay the Russian search party at the landing site, but the team’s helicopters were able to land near the Union and help Wiseman, Surayev and Gerst out of the space capsule.
Three astronauts underwent brief medical examinations before being taken to the Kazakh city of Kostanay for a traditional greeting ceremony. From there, Wysman and Gerst were sent to Scotland, where they later parted: Gerst will go to the European Space Agency, while Wysman will fly to NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Suraev will be transferred directly from Kustanai to the Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, located outside of Moscow.
Three cosmonauts were launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-13M from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on May 28. For Wiseman and Gerst, this was the first flight into space. Suraev spent on board the station a total of 169 days during 21 and 22 expeditions from September 2009 to March 2010.
Throughout the expedition, Suraev, Wiseman and Gerst conducted a record amount of research and serviced the station system. Suraev made the second spacewalk in his career, throwing out the waste equipment overboard. Wiseman went out into space twice, for the first time together with Gerst they put a faulty coolant pump and installed a relay to provide backup power for the mobile conveyor, which drives the main manipulator. The second time, together with Wilmore replaced the failed power regulator.
"This is the most unique ship with the most amazing crew I've ever worked with, and it was a great honor for me to be here for 165 days," said Wysman on the eve of sending home.
"They say that the station is the most complex machine ever built," - said Gerst. “Now, even six months later, it’s impossible for me to understand how complex the ISS is.”
The departure of Wiseman, Suraev and Gerst marked the end of 41 expeditions. Wilmore, Samokutyaev and Serova plan to stay aboard the space station until March.