Tuesday, May 14, 2013

ISS Expedition 35 Ends, Returns to Earth

TMA-07M undocks and backs away from the ISS.

Expedition 35 has ended on a high note, and come to a successful conclusion. Days after the unplanned EVA to repair an ammonia leak in the station's cooling system for the electrical solar power, the crew of Expedition 35 turned over command to Expedition 36.

Commander Hadfield (right) bids adieu to the crew of Expedition 36 (on left).

Canada's first commander of the ISS, Kevin Chris Hadfield, had good words to say about the mission in the last three months during a televised Change of Command ceremony on Sunday. COmmand passed to cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, part of Team B of Expedition 35, which now becomes the prime crew of Expedition 36. The departing Expedition 35 crew then made preparations for their return to Earth in Soyuz TMA-07M.

From inside ISS, Chris Hadfield in the hatch to the Soyuz waves goodbye.

There is not much room in a Soyuz capsule for three passengers, let alone equipment. However, some items need return right away, so the astronauts stowed aboard some samples from a Japanese protein crystal growth experiment.

Hatch closed.

The crew boarded their return spacecraft and undocking took place at 5:08 pm MDT while the station overflew Russia and Mongolia, over 250 miles up. As usual with Russian craft, NASA TV broadcast the sounds of Russian mission control with the help of a translator and the video coming from the Soyuz Point of View.

Russian computer panel with inset video, showing docking target on ISS.

The Soyuz fired thrusters to gently back away from the docking hatch on the Rassvet module. Once away from the station, further thruster firings maneuvered the craft away from the station and headed towards the re-entry position.

Soyuz POV. View of the station as the Soyuz moves back.

Last views of the ISS from TMA-07M.

After a perfect placement into position, the retro-rockets fired and the Soyuz began descending into the atmosphere. On the Soyuz craft, it's the middle section that protects the crew with an ablative heat shield, the experiment module and service module separating and burning up.

Computer art of module separation. Travel path would be to upper right.

Parachute sequence. The first 'chute pulls out the Main. The capsule fires landing rockets just before touchdown.

Landing occurred in Kazakhstan at 8:31 pm MDT last night. Helicopters and vehicles brought the Russian landing recovery teams to the site and they helped the astronauts leave their cramped capsule.
The crew had been in space about six months, so their bodies had to fight hard against the gravity.
With the end of recovery operations, attention now turns to the flight of Expedition 36.

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