NASA's Scott Kelly assisted from his Soyuz capsule in Kazakhstan under high winds and frigid temperatures. Photo Credit/NASA TV
The last members of the International Space Station’s Expedition 26 crew descended safely to Earth early March 16 aboard the Soyuz TMA-0M1/24S spacecraft.
Cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka, joined by Expedition 26 commander Scott Kelly, of NASA, touched down under parachute north of Arkalyk in Kazakhstan at 3:54 a.m., EDT.
They were quickly joined at the snow covered, sub-freezing landing site by helicopter-borne Russian search and rescue crews, who were accompanied by several NASA personnel, including a flight surgeon.
The landing, at 1:54 p.m., local time, ended a 159-day voyage for the three men. The expedition vaulted Kaleri into second place for time accumulated in space. His 770 days over five long duration flights are second only to Sergei Krikalev, who logged 803 days over six missions.
Because of the high winds, frigid temperatures and snow, medical checks at the landing site were abbreviated, said NASA spokesman Rob Navias, who was among the recovery party.
“This is Arctic conditions, at best,” he said. “No doubt about that.”
Nonetheless Kelly and the others appeared to be in good shape as they were extracted from their capsule, which rolled onto its side after landing.
The Soyuz 24S crew was to make its way to Kustanai in Kazakstan by helicopter. There, Kaleri and Skripochka were to depart for Star City, Russia, and Kelly for Houston, Tex., aboard a NASA aircraft.