A NASA TV screen grab shows a Soyuz spacecraft departing the International Space Station.
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL (Florida Today) -- A Russian, an American and a
Canadian are safely back on Earth today after a blazing atmospheric
reentry that wrapped up a five-month expedition to the International
Superhot plasma gasses
enveloped their Soyuz spacecraft as Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko,
U.S. astronaut Thomas Marshburn and Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space
Agency made a fiery plunge toward a landing zone on the central steppes
search-and-rescue forces flew helicopters in racetrack ovals above the
zone as the crew prepared to deploy parachutes at about an altitude of
The crew had just come through maximum aerodynamic forces, and Romanenko reported to Russian Mission Control in Moscow.
"We feel good," he said. "Everything is normal. Proceeding with descent."
camera views from the helicopters showed the spacecraft dropping
through clear blue skies. It was morning in Kazakhstan. Six soft-landing
engines fired two seconds before the spacecraft hit ground to cushion
the jarring 10:31 p.m. EDT touchdown Monday.
atmospheric reentry began 2 hours, 20 minutes after Romanenko,
Marshburn and Hadfield departed the International Space Station. The
Soyuz was 7.5 miles from the outpost at the time.
A 4 minute, 45-second retrograde engine firing slowed the Soyuz capsule by 420 feet per second, dropping it out of orbit.
Marshburn and Hadfield launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan
in December. The three men spent 146 days in space; 144 of them on the
departure from the station came two days after Marshburn and U.S.
astronaut Chris Cassidy performed an impromptu spacewalk to halt a leak
of toxic ammonia coolant at the outpost. The two replaced a 260-pound
coolant pump with a spare.
took the helm of the station during a change-of-command on Sunday.
Cassidy and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin remain onboard the
outpost. They launched in March.
return to full staffing is scheduled later this month with the arrival
of another three-member crew: Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, U.S.
astronaut Karen Nyberg and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano of the
European Space Agency.
space station has been continuously staffed since its first crew opened
the outpost, still under construction, in November 2000. Assembly of
the U.S. segment of the station was completed in 2011 and the outpost is
expected to operate through at least 2020.
Atlas V rocket is scheduled to roll out to its launch pad today in
advance of the planned Wednesday evening launch of an advanced GPS
navigation satellite. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station is slated for 5:38 p.m. Wednesday.
launch window will extend through 5:56 p.m. The 19-story Atlas V will
carry the fourth in a series of new-generation Air Force Global
Positioning System satellites. Air Force meteorologists say there is an
80 percent chance conditions will be acceptable for launch.
concern is a chance of low-level clouds that could block the view of
range safety officers during the critical, early part of the flight.