The Russian Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft separated from the ISS at 4:27 p.m. EST, and touched down on solid ground at 10:58 p.m. EST. Three further astronauts from Expedition 42, Butch Wilmore, Alexander Samokutyayev and Elena Serova, remain in orbit. They arrived at the station in September.

Soyuz Capsule Brings Space Station Crew Home

Russian Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft: A safe return

Poor local weather conditions presented a potential hurdle for search and recovery forces, but their helicopters were able to reach the capsule and help the astronauts out of their vehicle.

After brief medical checks the three space explorers were to go their separate ways, each flying home to their respective space agencies. This recent flight was both Wiseman’s and Gerst’s first time in space. Suraev was part of Expeditions 21 and 22, and lived aboard the ISS for 169 days from September 2009 to March 2010.

On this expedition the trio carried out a record amount of scientific research, as well as performing maintenance to keep the station running. Suraev ventured out on his second career spacewalk in order to discard used equipment, and take photos of the space station. Wiseman carried out two spacewalks.

Russian Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft: Praise for the station

“This is the most unique ship with the most amazing crew and most incredible ground support that I’ve ever worked with, and it has been an honor and a privilege to serve 165 days up here,” Wiseman said just before leaving the station.

Gerst was also effusive in his praise for the ISS and his time there. “They say [the station] is the most complex machine that humanity has ever built,” he said. “Now, even after half a year, it is impossible for me to fathom how complex it is to actually operate this machine.”

“What I’m sure of is this is the finest example of teamwork that I’ve ever seen in my life,” continued Gerst.

The remaining crew members, Wilmore, Samokutyaev and Serova, will remain in orbit until March. On November 23 they will be joined by NASA’s Terry Virts, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and the European Space Agency’s Samantha Cristoforetti.