Two astronauts from NASA and one from the Russian Space agency Roscosmos have returned safely to Earth after 197 days of scientific research on the International Space Station. NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev of Russia — part of the Expedition 56 crew — landed safely on a Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft at 7:44 am EDT (5:44 pm in Kazakhstan) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan, the US space agency said in a statement late on Thursday.
They spent months providing hands-on support for scientific research in low-Earth orbit, working to keep the orbiting laboratory fully operational, and performing three spacewalks. The crew completed hundreds of experiments during its 197-day expedition in space, including an investigation to study ultra-cold quantum gases using the first commercial European facility for microgravity research, and a system that uses surface forces to accomplish liquid-liquid separation.
Both Feustel and Arnold participated in dozens of educational downlink events while in space, as part of NASA’s Year of Education on Station, reaching more than 2 lakh students in 29 states, the statement said. Feustel has now logged more than 226 days in space on three spaceflights, accumulated 61 hours and 48 minutes over nine career spacewalks, and ranks third overall among American astronauts. Arnold has spent more than 209 days during the course of two missions and has clocked 32 hours and 4 minutes during five career spacewalks.
Artemyev conducted one spacewalk, with fellow cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, to manually launch four small technology satellites and install an experiment called Icarus onto the Russian segment of the space station. The spacewalk timed out at 7 hours and 46 minutes, the longest in Russian space programme history. Artemyev has now spent 366 days in space on his two flights. Currently, Expedition 57 continues station research and operations with a crew comprised of Serena Aunon, Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos. NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are scheduled to reach Earth on October 11.