On Monday, May 13th, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft successfully landed in the central Asian country of Kazakhstan. The Soyuz TMA-07M capsule, carrying Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield, NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, safely landed in the landlocked country at 10:31 p.m. EDT (2:31 May14 GMT). The Soyuz capsule undocked from the International Space Station just after 7 p.m. EDT. The capsule's return marks the end of the International Space Station's Expedition 35, of which astronaut Chris Hadfield was the commander, as well as the beginning of Expedition 36.
After undocking from the station, the Soyuz capsule repositioned itself a safe distance before firing its re-entry rockets, allowing the spacecraft to slow its velocity before entering the Earth's atmosphere. During its descent, communications between the astronauts and ground control was lost as a result of the interference from the superheated gases surrounding the capsule upon re-entry. Fortunately, everything went according to plan, as both the capsule's parachutes and soft-landing rockets deployed on time to give the astronauts a soft landing.
"Boy, that was quite a ride home," Hadfield said upon returning to Earth.
The three astronauts will be examined by medical teams on site, after which Hadfield and Marshburn will return to meet family members at Houston, Texas aboard a NASA jet. There, Hadfield and Marshburn will spend some time adjusting to normal gravity, having spent so much time in a zero-gravity environment. After his recovery, Hadfield will return to Canada.
Expedition 35 And Beyond
Expedition 35 was the 35th long-duration mission to the International Space Station, launching on December 19th, 2012. The three astronauts orbited Earth 2,300 times and traveled 61 million miles (98 million kilometres) during their 144-days aboard the ISS. Most notably, Expedition 35 was the first mission where a Canadian astronaut, Colonel Chris Hadfield, was in command of the space laboratory. This marked the second time the ISS crew was not led by either a NASA astronaut nor a Russian cosmonaut, after Expedition 21 in 2009 which was led by ESA astronaut Frank De Winne.
The crew of Expedition 35.
During their stay on the ISS, Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko witnessed the arrival and departure of several unmanned resupply crafts, including SpaceX's Dragon capsule. A few days before their return to Earth, the astronauts were forced to perform an emergency spacewalk in order to fix a serious ammonia coolant leak on the exterior of the station.
Currently, astronauts Pavel Vinogradov and Chris Cassidy and Alexander Misurkin remain onboard the station, beginning Expedition 36 with Vinogradov as commander. The three will be joined by European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano, NASA's Karen Nyberg and Russia's Fyodor Yurchikhin when the three launch onboard the Soyuz TMA-09M at the end of May. Upon the end of Expedition 36 in November 2013, Vinogradov, Cassidy and Misurkin will return to Earth, leaving Yurchikhin as the commander of Expedition 37.
With the end of the Space Shuttle Program and the retiring of all remaining shuttles, NASA has been relying on the Russian Soyuz spacecrafts to transport its astronauts to and from the ISS. NASA, however, hopes to have privately-crewed spaceships in the near future to facilitate the shuttling of astronauts from US soil.
Colonel Chris Hadfield (born 29 August 1959) is the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station, as well as the first Canadian to walk in space. Hadfield was a former Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot and had flown two space shuttle missions in the past, STS-74 in 1995 and STS-100 in 2001. After arriving at the ISS on 21 December 2012, Hadfield became the first Canadian to command the ISS when the crew of Expedition 34 departed. He in turn handed command of the station to the crew of Expedition 36 on 12 May 2013, before safely returning home.
"It's just been an extremely fulfilling and amazing experience."
During his time as the commander of the ISS, Hadfield shared his experiences and perspectives with the rest of the planet. Over the course of several months, Hadfield sent back videos of his meals, what he saw, as well as many other aspects of life in space. In his videos Hadfield would describe the possibilites of Earth being struck by an asteroid, as well as what it would be like if one were to cry in space. His most notable video, however, would be his rendition of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" commemorating his last days aboard the ISS.
Hadfield would amass a large Twitter following during his time on the station, with Forbes describing Hadfield as "perhaps the most social media savvy astronaut ever to leave Earth". As of May 2013, Hadfield has almost 900,000 Twitter followers.
Before leaving the station on board the Soyuz spacecraft, Hadfield sent one last photo from the space laboratory.
"Spaceflight finale: To some this may look like a sunset," wrote Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) on Twitter. "But it's a new dawn."
For more information on Expedition 35 and the International Space Station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html
For some of Chris Hadfield's videos, visit: http://www.space.com/20616-astronaut-space-life-video-guide.html
Follow @Cmdr_Hadfield on Twitter.