International space agencies, including NASA, routinely send astronauts and cosmonauts to the International Space Station to study space physics and further our understanding of the micro-gravitational environment. But they can’t stay there forever.
Three spacemen, including Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos, returned to Earth via a Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft on Wednesday after spending 168 Earth days on the International Space Station.
Image Credit: Alexander Nemenov/POOL via AP Photo
Their spacecraft touched down in Kazakhstan with the help of massive landing parachutes. Recovery teams quickly swarmed the vehicle to conduct medical checks on the three men.
"All descent and landing operations went according to plan. The crew members that have returned to Earth are feeling well," Roscosmos said on Wednesday.
Having been on the International Space Station for so long, their bodies will need to become acclimated to Earth’s gravitational pull once again, and as we’ve learned from previous astronauts, that process is no walk in the park. It can take several weeks before they begin to feel normal again, and the first 24 hours can feel torturous.
Their departure from the International Space Station leaves behind a crew of three, including Scott Tingle of NASA, Norishige Kanai of JAXA, and Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos.
Those remaining will continue scientific operations as usual until three fresh crew members re-populate the Earth-orbiting space lab and return productivity to full capacity. They’re set to be joined by Ricky Arnold and Andrew Feustel of NASA and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos in just a few more weeks.