Thursday, November 25, 2010

Station crew begins plunge from space after deorbit burn

Three former International Space Station residents have begun their drop from orbit after a four-minute, 21-second engine burn slowed the speed of their Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft.

American astronauts Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin are scheduled to touch down on the steppe of Central Asia at 11:46 p.m. EST.

At 11:20 p.m. EST, the spacecraft will jettison its propulsion and orbital modules as it nears atmospheric re-entry, about three hours after the three Expedition 25 crew members undocked from the station.

They're expected to feel the maximum g-forces -- 4 to 5 times the pull of gravity on Earth -- around 11:30 p.m., shortly before deploying four parachutes.

The weather at the landing site about 48 miles northeast of Arkalyk is extremely cold, in the 20s, but dry and "very favorable" for landing, according to NASA public affairs correspondent Rob Navias.

He's a passenger on one of nearly a dozen Russian Mi-8 search-and-rescue helicopters staging to the landing area, along with a fleet of all-terrain vehicles.

Wheelock, Walker and Yurchikhin are ending a 163-day stay in space, including 161 days spent on the space station. Click on the NASA TV box at right to watch the landing live.

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