December 11, 2015

"Three space station crewmembers made a rare nighttime return to Earth on Friday (Dec. 11), safely landing in Kazakhstan after 141 days in orbit."

Space Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) touched down at about 8:12 a.m. EST (1312 GMT or 7:12 p.m. local time) on board their Russian Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft. by Robert Z. Pearlman

'The return marked only the sixth time that a Soyuz crew came home from the International Space Station at night, after more than 40 such landings. The returns are usually targeted for daylight to assist in recovery operations but a change in the launch schedule for an upcoming upgraded Russian cargo ship resulted in the post-sunset timing.

'Despite the dark and frigid cold winter conditions, Russian recovery forces were on site to help Kononenko, Lindgren and Yui climb out of the Soyuz. Due to the weather though, the number of recovery helicopters were limited from 12 to four and the post-landing medical exams were deferred, in favor of promptly flying the crew to the nearest airport.

'The crew began their trip home earlier on Friday morning at 4:49 a.m. EST (0949 GMT) with the undocking of Soyuz TMA-17M from the space station's Rassvet module. Their departure marked the official end of the orbiting outpost's Expedition 45 and the start of Expedition 46.'

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