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Back on Earth

20 June 2016

Three Space Station crew members safely returned to Earth on Saturday 18 June after spending 186 days exploring space!

Expedition 47 Commander Tim Kopra of NASA, flight engineer Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) and Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos touched down southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

The crew completed the in-flight portion of NASA human research studies in ocular health, cognition, salivary markers and microbiome. From the potential development of vaccines, to data that could be relevant in the treatment of patients suffering from ocular diseases, such as glaucoma, the research will help NASA prepare for human long-duration exploration while also benefiting people on Earth.

The three crew members also welcomed four cargo spacecraft, including one that delivered the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), an expandable habitat technology demonstration. The BEAM, which arrived in April on the eighth SpaceX commercial resupply mission, was attached to the space station and expanded to its full size for analysis over the next two years. The BEAM is an example of NASA’s increased commitment to partnering with industry to enable the growth of commercial space, and is co-sponsored by the agency’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division and Bigelow Aerospace.

Two Russian Progress cargo craft docked to the station in December and April, bringing tons of supplies. Kopra and Peake also led the grapple of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft to the station in March, the company's fourth commercial resupply mission, and the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft in April.

During his time on the orbital complex, Kopra ventured outside for two spacewalks. The objective of the first spacewalk was to move the station’s mobile transporter rail car to a secure position. On the second spacewalk, Kopra and Peake replaced a failed voltage regulator to restore power to one of the station’s eight power channels. Kopra now has 244 days in space on two flights, while Peake spent 186 days in space on this, his first, mission.

Having completed his sixth mission, Malenchenko now has spent 828 cumulative days in space, making him second on the all-time list behind Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka.

Tim Peake working in space station (Credit: ESA)

Tim Peake’s Principia mission was an eventful and busy six months in space. In the first month after his launch on 15 December 2015, Tim conducted a spacewalk. He also drove a rover across a simulated Mars terrain from space and helped to dock two spacecraft.

Tim took part in numerous experiments for ESA and international partners. Highlights include using the Space Station airlock to study Tim’s lungs, monitoring his sleeping patterns to learn how humans adapt to life without normal daylight, and recording how many calories he consumed to prepare for missions further from Earth.

Many experiments ran continuously while Tim and his crewmates were maintaining the weightless research laboratory. ESA’s Expose facility was returned to Earth after submitting organisms and chemicals to 18 months of travelling unprotected in space on the outside of the Station.

The Solar facility on Europe’s Columbus laboratory module continues to monitor our Sun after eight years of continuous observations. Another facility is tracking ships as the Space Station flies overhead.

Aside from his maintenance and science duties, Tim also enthralled the world via social media and ran a marathon in space. The next ESA astronaut to travel to the Station will be Thomas Pesquet of French nationality, scheduled for launch in November. 

Expedition 48 continues on the station, with NASA astronaut Jeff Williams in command, with crewmates Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The three-person crew will operate the station for three weeks until the arrival of three new crew members.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are scheduled to launch July 6 (Eastern time) from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

Check out the full NASA TV schedule and video streaming information at http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

Keep up with the International Space Station, and its research and crews, at http://www.nasa.gov/station

Get breaking news and features from the space station on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Space_Station

The video of Tim Peake's first news conference back on Earth is courtesy of ESA.


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