Three crew members returned from tours of duty aboard the multinational orbiting laboratory, setting down their Russian Soyuz-powered capsule by parachute in a remote area near Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 7:20 a.m. EDT (5:20 p.m. local time) April 10.
The trio included Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos. Their Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft undocked from the ISS at 4 a.m. EDT as the crew concluded a 173-day tour since arriving at the space station in October.
Boeing and SpaceX hold NASA contracts to begin crew shuttles to the ISS eventually. However, delays in the development of their next-gen spacecraft mean the U.S. commercial contractors won’t commence such missions until 2018 at the earliest.
The trio’s return leaves ISS managed by a three-person team until two new crew members are launched into space later this month — aboard another Russian Soyuz.