Two Russian astronauts and an American astronaut returned to Earth without any problem, landing on the Kazakh steppes on Saturday after a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
The Soyuz capsule carrying the Russians Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and the American Kate Rubens landed about 150 kilometers southeast of the city of Gizkazgan in central Kazakhstan.
This was the first assignment for Sergey Kud-Safrchkov, a former soldier, the second for Sergey Ryzhikov, a former military pilot, and Kate Robbins, a molecular biologist.
Former astronaut Yuri Malenchenko, who was waiting for the crew upon its arrival, was greeted with flowers, which were the first person to do a DNA sequence in space during her 2016 mission.
During this last assignment, I continued sequencing activities, worked on experiments on the cardiovascular system, and observed … the growth of radishes that had been harvested for analysis on the ground, according to a NASA statement.
For a decade, the International Space Station crew has varied according to arrivals and departures, often fluctuating between three to six, but sometimes more. Seven people remained on board on Saturday.
Among them, the two Russians and the Americans took off on April 9, during a flight that was also intended to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the flight of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space.
But Russia’s monopoly on flights to the International Space Station has been broken by American company SpaceX Elon Musk.
Last year it became the first private company to successfully send a team aboard the International Space Station, giving Americans the ability to accomplish this feat, for the first time since the end of the space shuttle program.
SpaceX’s second mission to the International Space Station will raise the number of people aboard the station to 11 next week, with the arrival of Americans Shane Kembrah, Megan MacArthur, Japanese Akihiko Hoshid and Frenchman Thomas Pesquet.
NASA also announced Friday evening that it has chosen SpaceX to send the next American astronauts to the moon.