Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Expedition 21 lands on Earth

Soyuz capsule at rest.

Expedition 21 has come to an end after three European space explorers landed on the wind-swept steppes of Kazakhstan. Evidently the frozen conditions there cancelled out the use of helicopters for recovery of the crew. Instead, all-terrain vehicles travelled from a distant base to retrieve the crew and capsule. The three crewmembers (Frank deWinne:ESA, Roman Romanenko: Roscosmos, and Robert Thirsk:Canadian Space Agency) had spent 186 days aboard the ISS as part of Expedition 21. E21 was the first expedition to include all five partner space agencies on a single mission.

Now we witness a small Expedition 22 continue on the station with only two crewmembers, astronaut Jeff Williams and cosmonaut Maxim Suraev as members. This will last for three weeks until Dec. 23rd, when they will be joined by cosmonaut Oleg Kotov and astronaut Soichi Noguchi from Japan. They will arrive via the Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft. No further crew exchanges will be made using the shuttles.

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