A multinational trio of spacemen are safely home after a successful landing of their Russian Soyuz in Kazakhstan.
Those returning from tours of duty at the International Space Station include the European Space Agency’s Andreas Mogensen of Denmark and Aidyn Aimbetov of the Kazakh Space Agency — both at the space station just eight days — and Russian space agency Roscosmos’ Gennady Padalka, ISS commander during his six-month stint.
Their Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft touched down 90 miles from the remote town of Dzhezkazgan at 8:51 p.m. EDT Sept. 11. The landing capsule was rapidly decelerated during final descent via a combination of parachutes and “soft-landing engines.”
“The chutes are out,” Padalka could be heard confirming on NASA TV, as he ticked off each successful phase of the decent.
Back at the orbiting space lab, recently arrived Soyuz TMA-18M will remain docked until March. That’s when it will be used by 12-month crewmembers Scott Kelly of NASA — the new station commander — and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos to return to Earth.
Others still onboard the ISS with Kelly and Kornienko include NASA’s Kjell Lindgren; Kimiya Yui of Japan’s JAXA; and Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, both of Roscosmos.
Russia has been handling ISS crew shuttles in recent years. SpaceX and Boeing have government contracts to take over such missions once ready, but that’s not expected until 2017 at the earliest.
SpaceX — which plans to use its Dragon spacecraft for manned shuttles — aims to become the first shuttle operator to reuse rockets and has been testing floating landing pads. The company has yet to determine how, where or when it will land its initial manned shuttle.
Boeing, which also hasn’t detailed landing plans, developed the Starliner CST-100 for its manned missions.