A crew cruising off from the International Space Station is making an scorching plunge back through the atmosphere tonight, heading for a bitter cold landing on the snow-swept steppe of Kazakhstan.
Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov performed a four-minute, 16-second engine-firing, slowing a Soyuz spacecraft enough to drop it out of orbit and send it on a supersonic slide back through the atmosphere. Flanking him on the right was U.S. astronaut Mike Fossum. To his left, Satoshi Furukawa of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Launched on June 8 in the same Soyuz, the three men are returning to Earth after 167 days in space.
Recovery forces are vectoring toward a landing site 35 miles north of Arkalyk. Temperatures are about five degrees Fahrenheit. Winds are about 15 mph. A half-foot of snow fell in the past 24 hours.
Live coverage of the atmosphere reentry and landing is under way here in The Flame Trench. Click the NASA TV box on the right to launch our NASA TV viewer and live coverage. Landing time: 9:25 p.m.