Astronaut Steven Swanson and cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev, the crew of Expedition 40, have returned home after spending 169 days together aboard the International Space Station (ISS), orbiting the earth 2,700 times, reports Irene Klotz for SciTech.
“We accomplished a lot. We’ve had a lot of fun,” said Swanson. “We did a lot of maintenance, which is good and bad… I love doing maintenance, but it means things broke.”
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Expedition 40 prepared for longer space missions in the future
Aside from the maintenance, the crew was involved in plenty of research while aboard the ISS including a 82-hour week of research back in July, which NASA says is the most grueling week anyone has put in aboard the ISS so far. During the trip Swanson did a spacewalk to replace a computer relay box that failed on them (probably the fun maintenance he was talking about), while Skvortsov and Artemyev did two spacewalks together totaling just over twelve hours outside.
This was Artemyev’s first space mission, but Swanson has now spent a cumulative 196 days in space on three missions and Skvortsov has spent 345 days in space on two separate missions. As long as that is, the team spent a lot of time doing research that would allow for people to stay aboard the ISS for even longer.
“One of several key research focus areas during Expedition 40 was human health management for long duration space travel as NASA and Roscosmos prepare for two crew members to spend one year aboard the orbiting laboratory in 2015,” NASA wrote in a statement.
NASA, ESA still rely on Russia for transport to the ISS
The crew returned in the same Soyuz capsule that took them to space on March 26, a reminder that NASA and the European Space Agency still rely on Roscosmos to shuttle their astronauts to and from the ISS. So far the tension over Ukraine hasn’t interfered with that partnership, though NASA isn’t partnering with Roscosmos on any other projects for the time being. SpaceX and Orbital Sciences send commercial resupply missions to the ISS, and SpaceX in particular is aiming to send manned missions in the future. Expedition 41, carrying astronaut Barry Wilmore and cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova (the first Russian woman to go aboard the ISS) is slated to launch on September 25.