Monday, November 21, 2011

Crew All Smiles After Bitter Cold Landing

The 29th expedition to the International Space Station is in the history books now and three members of its crew returned to Earth tonight, going from one temperature extreme to another during an atmospheric reentry and landing in bitter cold weather in Kazakhstan.

U.S. astronaut Mike Fossum, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov and Satoshi Furukawa of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency touched down in a half-foot of snow about 35 miles northeast of Arkalyk in north-central Kazakhstan.

Recovery forces and the crew encountered wind chills of 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Temperatures were in the single-digits. Winds were blowing as the Volkov, then Fossum and finally Furukawa were extracted from the same Soyuz spacecraft they launched aboard on June 8.

The space capsule landed on its side, which is not unusual in windy conditions, and recovery forces quickly moved the crew members to chairs that had been set up nearby. The astronauts and cosmonaut were wrapped in blankets by personnel outfitted for the frigid temperatures. The chairs and the crewmates were hoisted and hauled into medical tents so that initial post-flight examinations could be completed.

The three spent 167 days in space. It was Furukawa's first flight into space. Volkov, a second-generation and veteran space traveler, has racked up more than a year in orbit -- 366 days. Fossum, who previously had flown on two shuttle missions, now has tallied 194 days in space.

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