Army Astronaut Commander Returns to Earth
November 30, 2010
WASHINGTON -- Expedition 25 Commander Army Col. Doug Wheelock and Flight Engineers Shannon Walker and Fyodor Yurchikhin safely landed their Soyuz spacecraft on the Kazakhstan steppe Thursday, wrapping up a five-month stay aboard the International Space Station.
Russian cosmonaut Yurchikhin, the Soyuz commander, was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked at 8:23 p.m. EST from the station's Rassvet module. The trio landed at 11:46 p.m. (10:46 a.m. on Nov. 26 local time) at a site northeast of the town of Arkalyk.
Working in frigid temperatures, Russian recovery teams were on hand to help the crew exit the Soyuz vehicle and re-adjust to gravity. Yurchikhin will return to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, outside of Moscow, while Wheelock and Walker will fly directly home to Houston.
The trio launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on June 15. As members of the Expedition 24 and 25 crews, they spent 163 days in space, 161 of them aboard the station, and celebrated the 10th anniversary of continuous human life, work and research by international crews aboard the station on Nov. 2.
During their mission, the Expedition 24 and 25 crew members worked on more than 120 microgravity experiments in human research; biology and biotechnology; physical and materials sciences; technology development; and Earth and space sciences.
The astronauts also responded to an emergency shutdown of half of the station's external cooling system and supported three unplanned spacewalks by Wheelock and Expedition 24 Flight Engineer Tracy Caldwell Dyson to replace the faulty pump module that caused the shutdown. Their efforts restored the station's critical cooling system to full function.
Yurchikhin has logged 371 total days in space, Wheelock 178 days and Walker 163 days.
The station is occupied by Expedition 26 Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka of the Russian Federal Space Agency. A new trio of Expedition 26 flight engineers, NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman, Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency, will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 15. They will dock with the station and join its crew on Dec. 17.
To read more about Wheelock's experience, check out his Twitter page at: