168 days, the countdown ends

The most awaited moment of welcoming a space crew which will be soon replaced by another in a matter of two days came today when a Japanese physician-astronaut, a Russian cosmonaut, and a NASA flight engineer undocked from International Space Station. The landing was commenced in Kazakhstan today at 5:16 am (GMT-4).

Anton Shkaplerov monitored the cockpit while co-pilot Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai detached themselves from this 168-day extended stay in space. While landing at some 12 miles from the outpost, Tingle and Shkaplerov paid heed to the automated 4 minutes and 40-second extended rocket firing which slowed down the ship. However, Tingle claimed the ride to be incredible.

They reached the town of Dzhezkazgan at 8:39 a.m. (6:39 p.m. local time) where Russian recovery crew along with that of Japan and US were waiting for them to initiate the medical tests and arrange them talk with their loved ones. After all coming from space is not like boarding a metro to go to another city.

The three people were in sound condition and loved the sensation of fresh air and open sky. They were enjoying to be back on earth. They could find the weather beautiful and feel gravity for the first time in some three months, which otherwise might be ignored by the natives. 

The crew members were then sent to Karaganda using helicopters. Where a welcome ceremony was arranged for them just before they were sent to their homes. Tingle and Kanai will fly back to the Johnson Space Center in Houston while Shkaplerov will head towards Star City near Moscow for debriefing purpose since it was his third time in space. Tingle and Kanai went to the space mission for the first time. Cumulatively  Shkaplerov has completed 532 days in space.

Soyuz MS-07 returned back to Earth just to get replaced by another spacecraft. Some 250 miles away at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, three crew members are making preparations to leave Earth on Wednesday. We refer here not to a heavenly abode but a stay in a vacuum – the depthless space. Commander Sergey Prokopyev, German flight engineer Alexander Gerst, and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor will take off at 7:12 am.

They will be responsible for monitoring an automated space station for two days at the Rassvet module around 9:07 a.m. Friday if everything goes by the plan. There they will look after the undocking of Soyuz MS-09/55S and will welcome Drew Feustel, flight engineer Ricky Arnold and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev. This would be an opportunity of a lifetime for them.