Three down, one up: Some of the International Space Station crew land on Earth as the shuttle Endeavour stages a practice launch.
Expedition 26 Commander Scott Kelly and Russian flight engineers Alexander
Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka safely landed their Soyuz spacecraft on the
Kazakhstan Steppe this morning, wrapping up a five-month stay aboard the
International Space Station, NASA reported. The trio launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-01M
spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan
on Oct. 8, 2010.
As members of the Expedition 25 and 26 crews, they spent 159 days in space, 157
of them aboard the station.
Working in frigid temperatures, Russian recovery teams were on hand to help
the crew exit the Soyuz and adjust to gravity. Kaleri and Skripochka will
return to the Gagarin Cosmonaut
in Star City
outside of Moscow, while Kelly will
fly directly home to Houston.
A new trio of Expedition 27 flight engineers-NASA astronaut Ron Garan and
Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev-are scheduled to
launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome no earlier than March 29, the space agency
During their mission, the Expedition 25 and 26 crew members worked on more
than 150 microgravity experiments in human research, biology and biotechnology,
physical and materials sciences, technology development, and Earth and space
sciences. A quick succession of international space vehicles arrived on the
station's loading docks during Expedition 26. The Japanese Kounotori2, or
"white stork," H-II Transfer Vehicle 2, the Russian cargo ship
Progress 41, the European Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle and space
shuttle Discovery delivered more than 11 tons of supplies necessary for working
and living aboard the station.
After safely reaching its launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in
Florida on March 11, space shuttle Endeavour now awaits the next major
milestone for its upcoming flight to the ISS-a launch dress rehearsal, known as
the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT). The test is scheduled at
Kennedy from March 29 to April 1. Six astronauts are set to begin the STS-134
mission on April 19 for Endeavour's final scheduled flight before it is
The space agency said TCDT will provide Endeavour's astronauts and ground
crews with an opportunity to participate in various simulated countdown
activities, including equipment familiarization and emergency training. On
March 29, the astronauts will arrive at the Shuttle Landing Facility and make a
statement and on April 1 will depart from the Operations and Checkout
Building in their launch entry
suits in preparation for the countdown demonstration test at the launch pad.
The 14-day mission will be the 36th flight to the space station and the 25th
flight for Endeavour. The STS-134 mission
will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a particle physics detector
designed to search for various types of unusual matter by measuring cosmic
rays. The STS-134 crew also will deliver the
Express Logistics Carrier-3, a platform that carries spare parts to sustain
station operations once the shuttles are retired later this year.
Earlier this month, NASA celebrated the safe landing of the space shuttle
Discovery after its final mission into space. After 27 years of service during
which it racked up exactly one cumulative year in space and an odometer reading
of more than 148 million miles, the shuttle was the orbiter fleet leader,
having flown more flights than any other orbiter in the fleet, including four
in 1985 alone.