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Station Trio Lands Completing 169 Days in Space

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu Sep 11, 2014 8:09 am via: NASA
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Three Expedition 39/40 crew members have completed their stay in space with a landing in the steppe of Kazakhstan at 10:23 p.m. EDT Wednesday.

Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson of NASA and Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos undocked their Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft at 7:01 p.m. EDT from the Poisk mini-research module, officially ending Expedition 40 and touched down with a parachute-assisted landing less than an hour later southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan.

The Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft carrying the Expedition 40 trio is seconds away from landing on time in Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA TV

The Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft carrying the Expedition 40 trio is seconds away from landing on time in Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA TV

They closed the hatches to their Soyuz at 3:35 p.m. On Tuesday, Swanson handed over command of the International Space Station to cosmonaut Max Suraev during the traditional Change of Command Ceremony.

The homebound trio orbited the Earth twice before the Soyuz fired its deorbit engines at 9:30 p.m. sending the spacecraft on its way home. About 28 minutes later, the Soyuz spacecraft separated into three sections with the descent module, sandwiched in between the orbital module and instrumentation/propulsion module, carrying the crew home.

The descent module entered the atmosphere about 3 minutes later. The other two modules burned up in the atmosphere. Two pilot parachutes deployed first, extracting the drogue chute to begin slowing the Soyuz’ descent. The main chute then deployed covering an area of 1,000 meters. Finally, less than a meter above the ground, braking rockets fired to soften the landing as the Soyuz touched down.

U.S. and Russian recovery personnel were at the landing site to extract the crew from the Soyuz. Medical personnel are examining the crew before they are helicoptered to Karaganda for a welcoming ceremony. Swanson will then be flown aboard a NASA jet back to the United States. Skvortsov and Artemyev will return to Star City, Russia.

Several research study samples are returning with the crew aboard the Soyuz spacecraft. The Effects of Long-Term Exposure to Microgravity on Salivary Markers of Innate Immunity investigation involves the collection of blood, saliva, urine and a health assessment on six astronauts preflight, in-flight and postflight. These biological samples will help determine if immune system impairment caused by spaceflight increases the possibility for infection or poses a significant health risk to crewmembers aboard the space station. Knowledge that spaceflight weakens the human immune system has been documented during and after missions in microgravity.

Samples returned from the Salivary Markers study will help determine the effects of long-term exposure to microgravity on a host of salivary antimicrobial proteins, underlying viruses that may reactivate, antibacterial properties of saliva, and blood markers associated with the cells and mechanisms that defend the immune system.

Launched in 2011, the NanoRacks-Terpene Extraction in Microgravity investigation examines how microgravity impacts the extraction of terpenes from wood samples. Terpenes are organic compounds that exist within most living creatures and are used in beverages, cleaning products and cosmetics. Following three years in spaceflight, samples of wood mixed with water and ethanol will return to Earth for analysis in comparison with ground control samples.

This commercially-funded study is the first to examine terpenes in space. By conducting this type of research in microgravity, scientists hope to get a greater understanding of the impact of gravity on basic materials. Terpene discoveries in microgravity may lead to production of new products and processes on Earth.

Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev began their mission when they lifted off March 25 and docked to Poisk two days later. Their landing concludes 169 days in space during which Artemyev and Skvortsov conducted two spacewalks on June 19 and Aug. 18. Swanson was at the controls of the Canadarm2 and captured the Cygnus commercial cargo craft when it arrived July 16.

Swanson flew to the station twice previously as a space shuttle mission specialist. In June 2007, he conducted two spacewalks at the space station after arriving aboard space shuttle Atlantis during STS-117. Swanson visited the station again in March 2009 during STS-119 aboard space shuttle Discovery and conducted a pair of spacewalks to install the S6 truss and outfit the orbital laboratory.

This was Skvortsov’s second tour of duty aboard the station. His first mission was in 2010 when he served as an Expedition 23 Flight Engineer and Expedition 24 Commander. He saw the arrival of space shuttles Discovery and Atlantis during the STS-131 and STS-132 missions.

Artemyev has completed his first space station mission.

Waiting back on Earth to replace the homebound trio are Soyuz Commander Alexander Samokutyaev of the Roscosmos and Flight Engineers Barry Wilmore of NASA and Elena Serova of Roscosmos. They represent the Expedition 41/42 trio and are scheduled to liftoff Sept. 25 aboard the Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft.

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