The trio had spent almost 6 months on board the ISS, during which time they traveled around 71 million miles, according to NASA. Commander Barry Wilmore of NASA and flight engineers Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) landed in Kazakhstan on Thursday.
From the ISS to Earth in a Soyuz capsule
Their trip began with the undocking of a Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft from the ISS, before undertaking a 4-minute, 41-second deorbit burn. A soft landing was ensured by the deployment of a series of parachutes before touchdown near to the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. The capsule landed in an upright position and all three crew members were in good physical condition when they were retrieved.
Over the course of the 167 days that they spent on board the space station, the trio carried out various research tasks concerning “the effects of microgravity on cells, Earth observation, physical science and biological and molecular science.”
NASA also stated that the ISS now boasts an Electromagnetic Levitator, which allows scientists to “observe fundamental physical processes as liquid metals cool,” and could potentially lead to the production of “lighter, higher-performing” alloys.
Given that the members of Expedition 42 have returned home, the ISS is currently manned by a three-person crew. In late March, the next trio will be sent up to join them.
NASA working on deep space missions
NASA carried out a successful test of the “largest, most powerful rocket ever built” on Wednesday. The booster produced around 3.6 million pounds of thrust during the test at a site in Utah.
The rocket booster will eventually be used “to help propel NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft to deep space destinations, including an asteroid and Mars.”
Ambition plans for deep space exploration rely on the development of huge rocket boosters to carry huge spacecraft into orbit. The entrance of private companies like SpaceX and Boeing into the field of space exploration has led to the reduction of costs and opened up new possibilities.
Both SpaceX and Boeing have contracts with NASA to transport astronauts and equipment to and from the ISS.