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Expedition 31 Crew Returns to Earth

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Sun Jul 1, 2012 10:23 am via: NASA
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After more than six months aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 31 Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers landed in the steppe of Kazakhstan aboard their Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft at 4:14 a.m. EDT Sunday (2:14 p.m. local time).

A Russian recovery team and NASA personnel reached the landing site by helicopter shortly afterward to assist the crew and conduct health assessments.

The Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft, under the command of Kononenko, undocked from the station at 12:47 a.m. Sunday. A deorbit burn at 3:19 a.m. slowed the capsule to begin its descent to Earth.

Kononenko, Pettit and Kuipers logged 193 days in space, 191 aboard the station.

This was the second trip into space for Kononenko, who earlier served a six-month tour of duty on the station as an Expedition 17 flight engineer in 2008.

Pettit wrapped up his third spaceflight, having previously completed 5-1/2 months aboard the station as an Expedition 6 flight engineer in 2002 and 2003 and visiting the orbiting complex again in November 2008 as an STS-126 mission specialist aboard space shuttle Endeavour.

For Kuipers, it was his second trip to the station and his first long-duration stay. He first visited the complex as a Soyuz flight engineer in April 2004.

The departure of Kononenko, Pettit and Kuipers from the station marked the end of Expedition 31 and the start of Expedition 32 under the command of Gennady Padalka, who will remain on the station with Flight Engineers Sergei Revin and Joe Acaba until Sept 17.

Three additional Expedition 32 flight engineers, NASA astronaut Suni Williams, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Aki Hoshide and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, are set to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in their Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft July 14 and dock to the station on July 17.

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