Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti’s record-setting run in space ended today when the Italian astronaut returned to Earth on board Russia’s Soyuz space capsule.
Cristoforetti returns to Earth right after 199 days in space, setting a single-mission duration record for all European Space Agency astronauts. She’s also the lady who has spent the longest time in space on a single mission, passing NASA astronaut Sunita Williams’ record of 195 days.
Also on board the Soyuz are American Terry Virts and Russian Anton Shkaplerov, whose return to Earth marks the end of Expedition 43. The 3 astronauts touched down in Kazakhstan about 7:44 p.m. neighborhood time right now.
The group hugged their fellow astronauts goodbye as they piled into the Soyuz and undocked early this morning ET.
Though the roughly 249-mile no cost-fall back to Earth took about 45 minutes, the process for generating confident they arrived at their destination was far extra complicated.
The Soyuz stayed close to the International Space Station for about two revolutions of the Earth as it fired its engines to align with the landing website. The crew members on board the spacecraft then turned their de-orbit engines in the direction of travel and fired them for 4 to 5 minutes prior to falling back to Earth.
“You have a lot of G-forces pushing you down. You are watching parts of your spaceship burn up outdoors of your window. It’s a little alarming visually,” astronaut Doug Wheelock, who has ridden in the Soyuz, told ABC News. “And then, of course, the heat shield on the Soyuz is ablative. It melts off and chunks roll off as you happen to be coming via the atmosphere so, consequently, [it] gets thinner and thinner.”
The atmosphere helped slow the Soyuz down till parachutes opened and the spacecraft glided to a landing. The 3 astronauts had been inside cramped quarters, bracing themselves for what Wheelock mentioned has the possible to be a jolting return to Earth.
“They train you to keep your hands and arms inside of your physique enclosure to make sure you don’t break anything,” Wheelock said. “You get as little as you can. When you hit, some people today stick the landing. We bounced. We hit once more and rolled more than. It depends on the winds and issues like that.”
The trio was set to return in Could. Having said that, their trip property was delayed following the failure of Russia’s Progress 59 cargo spacecraft went into an uncontrolled spin shortly just after launch.
The problem caused Russian space officials to ask the astronauts to remain in space for an additional month as they assessed what went wrong with the Progress launch.
The failure also pushed back the trip to space for their successors, who are now expected to arrive at the International Space Station in late July.