Two astronauts and an astronaut returned to Earth on Thursday after a hectic stay on the ISS, overshadowed by air leakage and the failure of the rocket, which was to lead a crew change. The Soyuz spacecraft, on board of which were Alexander Gerst from the European Space Agency, Serina Aunion-Chensellor from NASA and Sergey Prokofiev from Roscosmos, landed safely in Kazakhstan, the Russian space agency reported.
The spacecraft landed slightly ahead of schedule at 08:02 Moscow time. The team feels good on returning to Earth.
THERE IS A LANDING! Welcome home, “Altai”! The manned spacecraft crew # Soyuz MS09 returned safely to Earth after 197 days of flight!
Due to thick fog it was not possible to capture the descent of the vehicle. When the rescuers removed the crew members from the capsule, Prokopiev and Auunion-Chancellor were pale and weak in appearance due to the prolonged exposure to microgravity conditions, while Gerst was doing great and even gave an interview to a German TV channel.
When the astronauts went to the ISS in June, they were among the least experienced teams that had ever joined the station – only Gerst had been in space before, in 2014. Gerst himself has so far spent 363 days on the ISS, which is a record for the European Space Agency.
The first significant incident in the crew’s mission occurred in August when astronauts detected an air leak in the Soyuz spacecraft, docked to the orbital space laboratory. They managed to successfully seal a small hole, but Russia initiated an investigation. Dmitry Rogozin suggested that this could be deliberate sabotage in space. According to him, the investigators ruled out the possibility of a defect in the manufacture of the spacecraft.
Last week, Prokopyev and his colleague Oleg Kononenko conducted an exhausting space walk lasting almost eight hours to find a hole outside, take it off and gather evidence.
The hole was in the section of the astronaut’s spacecraft, which was supposed to fall and burn in the atmosphere upon landing, so it became necessary to examine the probe in space.
During the space walk, Kononenko said that he had found some kind of black and yellow “furry” deposit, similar to a “spider” around the hole, but he did not draw any conclusions. The FSB will be investigating further already on Earth.
The landing of the crew to Earth was planned for December 13, but the schedule was changed after the October failure of the Soyuz rocket, which brought out the next crew change – this was the first missile failure in the post-Soviet era.
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