Thursday, March 3, 2016

Astronaut Scott Kelly Returns to Earth

Soyuz TMA-18M backs away from the ISS. NASA TV.

Astronaut Scott Kelly has spent the last 340 days in space. He now becomes the highest-space-time American in NASA (Russians still hold the record). On Tuesday evening, the Expedition 46 crew separated from the International Space Station, and then performed braking maneuvers to prepare for re-entry. About six hours later, they were safely landed in Kazakhstan.

Helicopter sighting of the Soyuz slowly descending into the cloud bank over Kazakhstan.

 Kelly and his Roscosmonaut partner Mikhail Kornienko have been part of a joint NASA-Roscosmos project to study weightlessness in space, preparing for long journeys to Mars. Scott Kelly was in the fortunate position in that his twin brother, Mark Kelly (now retired from NASA) agreed to also participate in the study so that doctors could compare the two brothers to see how the changes of space affected Scott. One effect was obvious already, Scott's spine has straightened over the last year so that he is now two inches taller than his identical brother.

Thumbs-up from Kelly as he is helped out of the Soyuz capsule.

With the return of Expedition 46 to the Earth, the current ISS Expedition 47 crew (NASA astronaut commander Tim Kopra, ESA astronaut im PEake, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko) await the arrival of the second half of the crew. They will launch from Russia on March 18, with Jeff Williams, Oleg Skripochka, and Alexey Ovchinin.

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