Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Soyuz Spacecraft Returns Expedition 38 Space Station Crew to Earth

The recovery team attends to NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins and cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy after the trio's Soyuz capsule touched down in frigid Kazakhstan on March 10, 2014.

Credit: NASA TV

An American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts made a snowy but safe landing on Earth late Monday (March 10), bringing their 5 1/2-month mission aboard the International Space Station to a successful close.

A Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy touched down on the snowy steppes of Kazakhstan at 11:24 p.m. EDT Monday (0324 March 11 GMT; 9:24 a.m. March 11 local time), about 3 1/2 hours after leaving the space station.

Temperatures hovered around 0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 18 degrees Celsius) at the landing site, and strong winds whipped snow through the air.

"The crew will get a bit of a frigid welcome," a NASA commentator said as the Soyuz neared terra firma.

Because of the extreme conditions, recovery teams did not set up the standard medical tents for each crewmember.

Instead, Hopkins, Kotov and Ryazanskiy were to be taken immediately to a helicopter after being removed from the capsule.

The trio spent 166 days in orbit, and their mission was nearly extended by 24 hours.

Space station officials considered delaying the Soyuz' departure by a day because of bad weather on the ground in Kazakhstan but ultimately decided to go ahead with the original landing plan.

Hopkins, Kotov and Ryazanskiy launched toward the station on Sept. 26, initially joining the crew of the orbiting lab's Expedition 37.

In November, Expedition 37 transitioned to Expedition 38, which Kotov commanded.

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