Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Expedition 39 Touchdown! Space Station Crew Return to Terra Firma

Expedition 39 astronauts Koichi Wakata, Mikhail Tyurin and Rick Mastracchio (left to right) rest after landing in a Soyuz capsule on May 13, 2014.

Credit: NASA TV

Three crew members of the International Space Station have returned safely to Earth, ending their six-month orbital mission.

A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata and cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 9:58 p.m. EDT Tuesday night (May 13; 7:58 a.m. local time on Wednesday, May 14).

The Soyuz undocked from the space station 3 1/2 hours earlier while the two vehicles were above Mongolia, marking the end of Expedition 39 and the beginning of Expedition 40 aboard the orbiting lab.

"What an exciting time we shared in this increment," Expedition 39 Commander Wakata said Monday (May 12) as he handed the station's reins over to NASA astronaut Steve Swanson.

"Congratulations, and best wishes to the crew of Expedition 40 for a successful mission."

Wakata, Mastracchio and Tyurin enjoyed an eventful and historic stint in orbit after arriving at the space station on Nov. 7, 2013.

For example, Wakata became the first Japanese person ever to command the station when he took charge of Expedition 39 on March 10.

Just four days later, Wakata and Mastracchio participated in "Live from Space," a two-hour TV event hosted by Soledad O'Brien that aired on National Geographic Channel, as well as Channel 4 in the United Kingdom.

"Live from Space" gave viewers in more than 140 countries an idea of what it's like to live and work on the orbiting lab, with Wakata giving a guided tour of the $100-billion complex.

Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, commander of the International Space Station's Expedition 39 mission, is helped out of the Soyuz capsule.

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