The TMA-02M capsule touched down under parachute on the plains of Kazakhstan at 9:26 p.m., EST or Tuesday at 8:26 a.m., local time, with NASA astronaut Mike Fossum, cosmonaut Sergey Volkov and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa.
American Mike Fossum, left, and Russian Sergey Volkov moments after their extraction from the
Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft. Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa was still being assisted from
the capsule. Image Credit/NASA TV
Russia's Soyuz 27 mission spacecraft descended to Earth late Monday, ending a 167-day mission for a U. S., Russian and Japanese crew.
The spacecraft descended onto a frigid windy and snow covered landscape about 30 minutes prior to sunrise. Helicopter borne search and recovery teams descended quickly on the landing site north of Arkalyk to assist the three men, who were weakened physically by the prolonged weightlessness, as they crawled from the capsule.
The returning astronauts were to be flown by helicopter to Kustanai, where they were to undergo medical exams and rest. Fossum and Furukawa were to be flown by NASA jet to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Tex. Volkov was to fly to Star City, Russia.
The TMA-02M undocked from the station's Russian segment Rassvet docking port at 6 p.m., EST, marking the end of the 29th multinational expedition to the orbiting science laboratory.
With the departure, command of the station transferred from Fossum to Expedition 30 commander Dan Burbank. Burbank and Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin docked with the station on Nov. 16, two days after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard the Soyuz 28 mission spacecraft.
The unusually brief "hand over" between the two crews was prompted by the Aug. 24 third stage failure of a Soyuz U booster with the Progress 44 supply craft. The loss prompted a suspension of the Soyuz crew launches and threatened to force an evacuation of the station while Russia investigated and mounted a recovery strategy.
The concern lifted with the trouble free Soyuz 28 mission. The Progress loss was traced to a third stage fuel line blockage. As part of the recovery, Russia stepped production line quality control.
The station is tentatively scheduled to resume sustained six crew operations with the Dec. 21-23 launch and docking of the Soyuz 29 mission with American, Russian and European crew members.