Saturday, September 25, 2010

Russian-American Crew Executes Return-To-Earth Engine-Firing

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft with a crew of three on board is making a dive back through the atmosphere tonight after a delayed departure from the International Space Station.

Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov fired the spacecraft's engines in a four-minute, 21-second retrograde burn just after 12:31 a.m., slowing the Soyuz enough to drop it out of orbit and send it on a 50-minute freefall back to the arid central steppes of Kazakhstan.

Clear skies, light winds and temperatures in the high 40s will greet the crew at their scheduled 1:21 a.m. landing time. You can watch live coverage here in The Flame Trench. Click the NASA TV box on the right side of the page to launch our NASA TV viewer and live coverage.

Skvortsov, Mikhail Kornieko and Tracy Caldwell-Dyson launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 2 and docked at the station two days later. They've been in space 176 days, 174 of which were spent on the station.

Search-and-rescue forces in helicopters and aircraft are headed toward the landing zone to recover the crew.

An initial attempt to depart the station late Thursday was scrapped after hooks and latches securing the spacecraft at the station failed to open. Jumper cables were installed to bypass a faulty electrical circuit.

U.S. astronaut Douglas Wheelock now is in command of the station. Onboard with him are U.S. astronaut Shannon Walker and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin.

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