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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Expedition 31 Returns to Earth


Expedition 31 crew members prepare to close the hatch.

Just after midnight on Sunday July 1st, the three members of the 31st expedition to the International Space Station undocked their Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft and headed for home. Expedition commander Oleg Kononenko, and flight engineers Don Petite and Andre Kuipers had been in space for about 6 months. Later on Sunday, the spacecraft made its final deorbit burn and re-entered the atmosphere. Under parachute, the crew touched down in Kazakhstan on Sunday afternoon.

The Soyuz spacecraft moves away from the ISS.

Great view of the Soyuz from above the Earth.

Russian view of descending crew capsule. Several Mi-8 helicopters circled the capsule as it approached the landing site.

Thrusters fired just before landing to slow the capsule for a softer landing. Touchdown!

With the end of Expedition 31, the remaining crew on the ISS now take over command and begin Expedition 32. Cosmonaut Gennady Pedalka leads the expedition, and marks his 3rd command of the ISS! He is accompanied by Flight engineers Joe Acaba (NASA) and Sergei Revin (Russia). The second half of the crew will arrive on July 17.

Mark Daymont
Space Center Educator

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