After 168 days in low-Earth orbit, three members of the International Space Station Expedition 55 crew returned to Earth on Sunday.
Astronaut Scott Tingle from NASA, Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov of Russian space agency Roscosmos landed southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan at 8:39 am EDT (6:09 pm in India).
While it was the first mission for Tingle and Kanai, Shkaplerov has been on three flights so far and has logged 532 days in space. The Expedition 55 crew returned after completing hundreds of experiments, “including materials testing, a study of the effect of microgravity on the bone marrow and research into plant growth in space”, according to a NASA statesment.
Tingle and Kanai ventured outside the station on separate spacewalks to perform work on parts of the Canadarm2 robotic arm, and also participated in educational events as part of NASA’s Year of Education on Station, said the statement.
In February, Shkaplerov along with cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin conducted a record-setting spacewalk “to replace an electronics box for a communications antenna on the Zvezda service module”. The spacewalk timed out at 8 hours and 13 minutes was the longest in Russian space program history.
With the Expedition 55 crew back, the Expedition 56 crew will operate the station and prepare for the arrival of three new crew members on June 8. The three members — Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos — are scheduled to launch on June 6 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
The launch and docking to the space station will be broadcast on NASA Television.