The three international crew members of Expedition 50 have landed safely in the Kazakhstan steppes, thus bringing their 173-day mission at the International Space Station (ISS) to an end.
Expedition 50 concluded successfully as the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft’s landing module touched down at around 10:20 GMT 146km (91 miles) from the town of Zhezkazgan on the Kazakhstan steppe.
“The crewmembers feel well. Medics are examining the space travelers upon return to Earth,” the Russian Federal Space Agency’s RKA Mission Control Center told RIA Novosti.
NASA’s mission commander Robert Shane Kimbrough and two Russian flight engineers, Andrey Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov, boarded the Soyuz spacecraft early on Monday and undocked from the space station at 7:57 GMT.
While on the mission, the crew researched the influence of lighting on the overall health and well-being of humans in space, examined the genetic properties of space-grown plants, and looked at human tissue regeneration in microgravity.
Back at the ISS, command was transferred to NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, starting Expedition 51. Whitson becomes the first woman to command two ISS expeditions, as she was in charge of Expedition 16.
Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and French flight engineer Thomas Pesquet have also stayed at the station for Expedition 51. Two other members are expected to join them in 10 days, after their Soyuz MS-04 blasts off on April 20.
RT correspondent Maria Finoshina caught the emotional moment for Andrey Borisenko’s family right after the landing. “Of course we have been worrying, but we are sure of our equipment and that everything will be all right,” the cosmonaut’s father, Ivan, told RT. “It’s not like walking in the park or a trip to another city,” Borisenko’s wife, Natalia, added. Andrey Borisenko is the cosmonaut behind the RT 360 space project, which has been bringing panoramic videos from aboard the ISS for the first time ever.