The Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft lands with Expedition 43 commander Terry Virts of NASA, cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti from European Space Agency near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on June 11. (NASA)[/caption]Three members of the International Space Station crew have returned to Earth.
The ISS enjoys multinational support led by the U.S. and Russia. The returning crewmembers will be replaced when three new members are rocketed to the low-orbit spacecraft later this year.
Those completing their ISS missions included U.S. Commander Terry Virts of NASA, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency and the Ukranian-born Russian cosmonaut Russian Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency, or Roscosmos.
The trio landed their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft in Kazakhstan at 9:44 a.m. EDT on June 11. Russian recovery teams were helping the crew exit the Soyuz vehicle and adjust to gravity after their time in space.
SpaceX and Boeing have government contracts to build rockets for shuttling crew to the ISS. But the appropriations legislation tends to be contentious when bills are voted upon in Congress, and Russian rockets are being used until longer-term funding issues are sorted out.
Virts, Cristoforetti and Shkaplerov arrived at the International Space Station on Nov. 24, 2014, and spent more than six months conducting research and technology demonstrations while clocking almost 84 million space miles.
To mark her return, Cristoforetti sent a picture of herself waving goodbye with the caption, “So long … and thanks for all the fish!” It was a reference from the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” book series by Douglas Adams.
— Sam Cristoforetti (@AstroSamantha) June 11, 2015