International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 34, headed by Commander Kevin Ford, safely landed their Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft at a site in remote Kazakhstan at about 11:08 EST, according to NASA, which streamed some of the event live on their public website.
The American commander and two Russian crew flight engineers had spent 144 days in space, 142 of them living on the ISS. They will now work with Russian recovery teams to re-adjust to the earth’s gravity after enjoying the weightless conditions in orbit.
Because of poor weather on the ground in Kazakhstan, their departure from the ISS had been delayed from Thursday to Friday night. In fact, the weather still wasn’t ideal when they landed, with NASA reporting fog and freeze at the landing site, but the Russians had no trouble locating and meeting the Soyuz craft.
One of the ISS Expedition 34 highlights came earlier this month, when NASA released the first photo of the earth taken with the new ISERVE camera system. The camera was installed in January and grabbed its first photo — an ecologically important wetland region in Panama — on Feb. 13.
ISERVE will be able to photograph about 90% of the earth’s surface from orbit, allowing it to be used effectively to monitor environmental changes and to track natural disasters.
Although the expedition went smoothly overall, there was a small moment of tension earlier this month. SpaceX Dragon, a privately owned unmanned delivery vehicle, was launched on March 1 to resupply the ISS. Only after it got into the air was it discovered that three out of four of its thruster pods weren’t working.
Fortunately, the problem was repaired remotely, and the delivery vehicle with its 1,200 pounds of supplies were captured safely by the ISS crew in the early morning hours of March 3.
Here is a video of the Expedition 34 crew departing the International Space Station, courtesy of NASA:
[photo of International Space Station undocking courtesy NASA]