Three crew members of Expedition 36 -- Chris Cassidy of NASA and Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin of the Russian Federal Space Agency -- returned to Earth from the International Space Station, or ISS, on Tuesday after spending 166 days in space.
The trio landed safely in Kazakhstan at 10:58 p.m. EDT (8:58 a.m. Sept. 11 local time) after undocking from the Poisk mini-research module in their Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft at 7:37 p.m. EDT.
“The time has gone by so incredibly fast,” Cassidy was quoted by Reuters as saying, during an in-flight interview last week. “It'll be really sad to leave. This is an incredible experience ... but by the same token, I'm ready to go. It's time for some other people to come ... and I'm really excited to go back and see my friends and family.”
Before leaving the ISS, Vinogradov handed over control of the station to flight engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin in a traditional Change of Command ceremony in the Zvezda service module. Yurchikhin remains aboard the orbiting laboratory with Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA's Karen Nyberg. They are now part of the Expedition 37 crew.
Following routine medical checkups, Vinogradov and Misurkin will be taken to Star City near Moscow, while Cassidy will fly on a NASA jet back to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
A replacement crew, including Oleg Kotov, Mike Hopkins and Sergey Ryazanskiy will leave for the ISS on Sept. 25. The three future crew members are currently preparing for their launch in a Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft in Kazakhstan and will arrive at the ISS just four orbits, or six hours, after launch, and dock with Poisk.
Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin, who left for the ISS on March 28, completed 2,656 orbits of Earth and traveled more than 70 million miles in space.
During their stay at the space station, Cassidy conducted three spacewalks, bringing his career total to six with an accumulated time of 31 hours and 14 minutes. Misurkin also conducted three spacewalks for a total of 20 hours and 1 minute, while Vinogradov conducted one spacewalk, which brought his career total to seven spacewalks, accounting for 38 hours and 25 minutes.
According to NASA, the three men also worked on many research experiments and science investigations that will benefit future human spaceflight and life on Earth.