Expedition 33 Crew Returns Safely to Earth
Three members of the Expedition 33 crew aboard the International space station (ISS) landed safely on the steppe of Kazakhstan Sunday after a four-month long schedule.
The Russian Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft carried crew members including NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Akihiko Hoshide of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko. It landed in the remote town of Arkalyk at 8:56 p.m. EST.
On their arrival, the crew members were assisted by Russian recovery team and NASA personnel, who conducted health assessments on them.
Earlier, the three members arrived at the space station on July 17, 2012. ISS is a research laboratory that is orbiting some 250 miles above Earth. Williams, Hoshide and Malenchenko spent 127 days in space, which also includes 125 days spent aboard the space station. During their stay, the crew members indulged in a wide range of Earth observation and technology demonstration investigations.
They also managed the arrival of commercial spacecraft, including the first private cargo resupply ship SpaceX Dragon capsule.
All three crew members orbited Earth 2,032 times and traveled 54,090,628 miles. Williams has spent a total of 322 days in space on two long duration missions, placing her sixth on the all-time endurance list. She made her first trip to ISS in 2006 as an Expedition 14/15 flight engineer. Williams has performed seven spacewalks, in a total of 50 hours, 40 minutes and holds the record for the total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut.
The space trip was the second for Hoshide and fifth for Russia's Malenchenko. He has spent a total of 642 days in space and ranks seventh on the all-time endurance list.
Before their departure back to Earth, the three members bid farewell to fellow crewmates NASA astronaut Kevin Ford and Russian cosmonauts Evgeny Tarelkin and Oleg Novitskiy. Ford took over as the commander of Expedition 34 crew.
Three more crew members - Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield, NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko - will join Expedition 34 in December.