Cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova, along with NASA astronaut, Barry Wilmore, are back on earth after spending six months (167 days) aboard the International Space Station (ISS). All three crew members returned in Russia’s Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft, landing in Kazakhstan on Thursday (10:07 p.m. ET Wednesday), after a 249-mile free-fall.
The astronauts, who blasted off on Sept. 26, were all extracted within half an hour, shortly following the arrival of the recovery workers. Despite the heavy fog and poor visibility, the crewmembers were immediately taken to their recliner-style chairs, which were set up next to the capsule.
All three appeared to be in good condition, as they began their readjustment to gravity, and underwent brief medical tests.
“I’m glad to be back,” stated Wilmore after being pulled from the capsule. Servova, who was all smiles, said that she felt great, stating “I want to say hello to all my relatives.”
Just this week, the crew participated in a farewell ceremony, in which Barry Wilmore handed over the command of the space station to fellow NASA astronaut, Terry Virts.
During the occasion, Samokutyaev stated, “I would like to ask the crew remaining here, in our home for the last six months, to take care of our beautiful space station and continue to be friends for life.” The members of the Expedition 42 crew also took their last selfie together in space.
Upon departing, Virts relayed this message to his crewmates via radio, “Soft landing, guys. We’re going to miss you.”
At the moment, Virts, along with cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency (ESA), remain aboard the ISS. On March 27th, they will be joined by three new crew members: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, as well as Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka.
According to Space.com, the end of this mission marks the second career flight for both Wilmore and Samokutyaev and the first for Serova. Altogether, Samokutyaev has spent 331 days in space, while Wilmore has spent 178 days in orbit. Serova also became the fourth Russian woman to fly in space during the journey.