After a 173-day stay on the ISS, Sergei Ryzhikov, Andrei Borisenko and Shane Kimbrough make a successful landing on the Soyuz MS-02 capsule.
The team landed safely in Kazakhstan on Monday.
“The landing has been confirmed,” a NASA commentator said, comparing it with a “textbook landing”.
Pictures from the landing spot were shown by three smiling people enjoying the sunlight and feeling solid ground under their feet. The landing took place southeast of the Kazakh steppe town of Dzhezkazgan. Of these, only Ryzhikov accomplished a similar mission for the first time.
Former pilot in the Persian Gulf Kimbro spent about 16 days on the US space shuttle Endeavor in 2008, and Borisenko spent 164 days on the ISS in 2011.
“Good night, Earth from @ Space Station, I’ll be back tomorrow!”, Wrote Kimbrough on Twitter before disconnecting from the ISS. Kimbro’s return to Earth means that 57-year-old astronaut Peggy Whitson led the ISS and became the first woman commanding an orbital outpost in two separate missions.
On April 24, she will break the record for cumulative days spent in space by any astronaut, beating 534 days spent by Jeff Williams.
Whitson, Oleg Novitsky, and Thomas Peske (stayed at the station) will be joined by Jack Fisher from NASA and Fedor Yurchikhin from Roscosmos, who are due to depart from April 20 from the Baikonur space center (Kazakhstan).
In the near future, the ISS will lose the usual number of crew of 6 people, after Russia decided to reduce the crew from three to two astronauts in order to save.
Roscosmos is waiting for the appearance of a new module to expand the Russian part of the orbital laboratory at the end of 2017 or at the beginning of 2018.