Russian Cosmonauts Undock From Space Station and Return to Earth

The Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft with three cosmonauts aboard departs the space station on time to return the crewmates to Earth. Credit: NASA TV

Yesterday, September 29, the Soyuz spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) at 3:34 a.m. EDT (12:34 a.m. PDT), carrying Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov back to Earth.

Expedition 68 officially began onboard the station at the time of undocking. Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) is the station commander for the crew consisting of NASA astronauts Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, Frank Rubio, and Jessica Watkins, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin.

The trio of cosmonauts landed  backon Earth at 6:57 a.m. EDT  in Kazakhstan (4:57 p.m. Kazakhstan time), southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan.

Russian Cosmonauts Undock From Space Station and Return to Earth

The Soyuz MS-21 crew ship with three cosmonauts aboard is seen parachuting to a landing in Kazakhstan less than three-and-a-half hours after undocking from the space station. Credit: NASA TV

The trio of Russian comonauts arrived at the station on March 18 aboard the Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft. The trio returns to Earth after 195 days in space that spanned 3,120 orbits of Earth and over 78 million miles.

This was the first flight for both Matveev and Korsakov. At the time of landing, the two cosmonauts will have each logged 195 days in space.

Artemyev completed five spacewalks totaling 33 hours, 12 minutes during the mission. He has now logged a combined 561 days in space on his three flights.

During the mission, Matveev completed four spacewalks totaling 26 hours, 7 minutes. He logged 195 days in space on his first flight.

On his first voyage, Korsakov spent 195 days in space as well.

The trio will return to the recovery staging city in Karaganda, Kazakhstan via Russian helicopters, before boarding a Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center aircraft to return to their training base in Star City, Russia.

Remaining aboard the station is the seven-person crew of Expedition 66. This includes Station Commander Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency), NASA astronauts Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, Frank Rubio, and Jessica Watkins, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin.

In October, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 members will join the Expedition 68 members aboard the station. This four person team is comprised of NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina. Crew-5 will be the fifth crew rotation mission of SpaceX’s human space transportation system, and its sixth flight with astronauts, to the ISS for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The ISS has already surpassed 20 years of continuous human presence, providing opportunities for unique technological demonstrations and research that help prepare for long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars while also improving life on Earth. Thus far, 260 people from 20 countries have visited the orbiting laboratory that has hosted more than 3,000 research investigations from scientists in more than 100 countries and areas.

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