After a prolonged stay of over 6 months at the International Space Station, three astronauts- American Terry Virts, ESA’s Samantha Crisotoforetti, and Roscosmos’ Anton Shkaplerov landed in a Soyuz TMA-15M capsule in Kazakhstan at 13:44 UTC. The three crew members first reached ISS on the 24th of November, 2014, which means that they spent a whole 199 days in space. Once they touched down, teams were on hand in minutes to help them out.
Delays of over a month plagued the three crew members.
The three astronauts were meant to stay on ISS for less time, but their departure was delayed for roughly a month. The delay was blamed on the Russian investigation of a Progress M-27M cargo ship that had been struck. Roscosmos finished its investigation and went back to spaceflight on June 5th, with a military payload.
Completion of mission marked a few space milestones.
The return from the mission marked the longest space mission for a female astronaut and longest uninterrupted spaceflight for an ESA member. The previous longest ESA astronaut space mission was 193 days. Both of the honors went to astronaut Samantha Crisotoforetti, who also holds records for most spacewalks and longest cumulative spacewalk time (50 hours and 40 minutes). The mission also marked the second time in space for both Terry Virts and Anton Shkapelrov, who are now a third of the way into their yearlong stay in space. During their stay, a ot of research was conducted on genetics and biology. Several generations of ants, fruit flies, plants, and worms needed for several studies from around the world were kept and grew on board.
Two astronauts are still on ISS, with three more soon to join.
Don’t worry, ISS has not been left unmanned. Commander Gennady Padalka and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos, as well as astronaut Scott Kelly of NASA, will remain on board, with veteran Padalka taking control. The three will serve as the welcoming party for three more astronauts slated to board the space station: Kimya Yui of JAXA, the Japanese Exploration Agency, Kjell Lindgren of NASA, and Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos.