Three astronauts aboard the International Space Station are set to return to Earth on a Russian Soyuz spaceship on June 3, NASA has said. When the three crewmates land in Kazakhstan, about three-and-a-half hours after undocking, the trio will have spent 168 days in space and conducted one spacewalk each, the US space agency said in a blog post. The three homebound station crew member are NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov.
They will be replaced by three new Expedition 56-57 crew members who are scheduled to launch to space on June 6. NASA astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor and Alexander Gerst of European Space Agency (ESA) will take a two-day ride to the space station with Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev inside the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft for a six-month mission aboard the orbital laboratory, the US space agency said. The home-bound Japanese astronaut earlier this year sparked a row when he declared on Twitter that he had grown 9cm while in space, the media reported.
He also said that the increase in height made him a little worried that he might not be able to fit in the Soyuz seats for his return to Earth. He, however, later apologised for the “terrible fake news” which resulted from a “mis-measurement”. More than a day after his original tweet, he said that he had stretched only 2cm which will not make him unfit for his return. “It appears I can fit on the Soyuz, so I’m relieved,” he tweeted.
Most astronauts ‘grow’ during protracted space missions because their spines extend in the absence of gravity, but the gains are usually limited to a couple of centimetres and disappear once they are back on the ground, the Guardian reported on January 10.