Monday, November 11, 2013

Expedition 38 Begins with Torch return to Earth

Change of Command. Fyodor Yurchikhn (L) shakes hands with Oleg Kotov (R). NASA TV.

The command crew of Expedition 37 has left the station. In a Change of Command Ceremony on Sunday, Fyodor Yurchikhini handed over responsibility of the ISS to new Expedition 38 Commander Oleg Kotov, who just on Saturday completed the 5-hour EVA including the Olympic Torch ceremony. Following the command ceremony, the Expedition 37 crew entered their Soyuz spacecraft and closed hatches about 3 pm. EST. 

TMA-09M backs away from the ISS.

At about 6:30 the spacecraft undocked and maneuvered for a re-entry back to Earth.  The flight plan worked flawlessly and the crew separated the return module from the rest of the spacecraft (which would burn up in re-entry). A little more than three hours after undocking, the capsule was spotted with parachute open coming in for a landing.

Landing in Kazakhstan.

As usual the Soyuz return capsule landed after firing its last thrusters, slowing descent for a safe but jarring bump onto Kazakhstan soil. The recovery team was landed by helicopter who helped the Expedition 37 crewmembers out of the capsule and onto chairs for their first taste of gravity in over 166 days in zero-G.

The Torch is Back On Earth!
Crew of Expedition 37: Fyodor Yurchikhin, Karen Nyberg, Lucca Parmitano.

Although not discussed much in the media, there was another piece of equipment brought back to Earth, whcih engineers very much wanted to get their hands on. That would be part of the space EVA suit that malfunctioned, leaking water into the suit and nearly drowning Lucca Parmitano. Engineers will analyze the equipment and seek to ensure this type of accident does not happen again. No doubt astronaut Parmitano is now VERY glad to be back on Earth.

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