The crew of Expedition 45 preparing to board their return flight. From L-R: Astronaut Kjell Lindgren (NASA), cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko (Roscosmos), and astronaut Kimiya Yui (JAXA).
After 141 days in space, part of the Expedition 45 crew on the ISS boarded their Soyuz space craft and undocked from the station at 2:49 am Mountain Time. For Soyuz commander Oleg Kononenko, it completes his third mission in space, giving him a total of 553 days in orbit. For the other two astronauts it completes their first missions.
A view inside the crew module (located between the service module and the science module). The hatch is in the bottom of the picture. Very crowded conditions in the Russian spacecraft.
Picture of the TMA-17M Soyuz spacecraft thrusting back from its docking port. Another spacecraft remains docked to the station in case the remaining three ISS members need to evacuate.
Procedures for de-orbiting and descent of the Soyuz crew module.
The crew completed the braking firing of the engine at 5: 23 am Mountain Time. Touchdown was at 6:12 am Mountain time, which was 7: 12 pm in Kazakhstan. Rescue crews quickly arrived and helped the crew out of the capsule and into helicopters for the ride back to base. It was the first time a Soyuz crew from the station has landed after sunset.
With the departure of the Expedition 45 crew, Mike Kelly on the ISS remains as commander, but now leads Expedition 46. Three more Expedition 46 crew are expected to arrive on December 15.