An American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts landed safely in the steppe of Kazakhstan on Thursday, completing a 196-day mission that began with the first launch under lockdown conditions.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner landed about 150 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of the Kazakh city of Zhezkazgan at 0254 GMT, images released by the agency showed. Russian space Roscosmos.
Footage from the landing site showed a Cassidy sitting down bumping elbows with one crew member at the recovery site and greeting another after exiting the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft, before being taken into medical tents before their trip to Moscow and Houston. .
“How are you?” Cassidy asked in Russian, smiling.
The three-man crew took off without the unusual fanfare in April, with around half of the world‘s population living under nationwide lockdowns imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
They were not faced with questions from a Baikonur press kit and were not sidelined by family and friends – two ancestral traditions before the pandemic.
Their pre-flight quarantine was also stepped up, as they avoided the usual tourist visits to Moscow from their training base outside the Russian capital.
Their mission also coincided with the arrival at the space station in May of the first astronauts to take off from American soil for nearly a decade.
The mission, led by tycoon Elon Musk’s SpaceX company as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew trade program, has helped fuel discussions about a new “space race” between a number of countries.
But Russian Roscosmos, who enjoyed a lucrative monopoly on travel to and from the space station as of 2011, remains the game’s fastest player in terms of travel to and from the ISS. .
Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley’s May trip to the space station and August’s return to Earth in the SpaceX craft allowed the couple to spend the better part of two days in transit.
Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagner’s touchdown on Thursday, on the other hand, came less than three and a half hours after undocking, while a three-person crew reached the ISS from Baikonur in just three hours and three minutes last week, establishing a new absolute record. .
Before returning from her third space mission, former US Navy SEAL Cassidy, 50, tweeted a photo of blood samples that astronauts must submit at different times during their mission, including right before they set off. undock.
“What is the price of a return to Earth? …. 8 tubes of blood !! The 7 shown in this photo were taken in the morning to be placed in our freezer, and the 8 will be pulled just before to come off for ground treatment shortly after landing, ”Sudoku fan Cassidy wrote.
Vagner for the first time was a rare presence from Roscosmos on the microblogging platform, where most of NASA’s astronauts have a profile.
“Mom, I’m coming home,” the 35-year-old tweeted on Wednesday.
Ivanishin, 51, is completing his third mission, after NASA’s Kathleen Rubins, with whom he launched into the ISS in 2016, arrived for a second stint aboard the station last Wednesday with Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov from Roscosmos.
The ISS was a rare example of cooperation between Moscow and Washington.
Members recently reported problems with the oxygen production system, the toilet and the oven for preparing food.
But Roscosmos said in a statement Tuesday that the issues had been “entirely resolved by the crew”.
“All of the station’s systems are functioning well and there is no danger to the crew or the ISS.”
Next month will mark the 20th anniversary of the permanent occupation of the orbital laboratory by humans, but the station is expected to be decommissioned within the next decade due to structural fatigue.