Astronauts float back to earth after 6 months on space station

McClain inside Dragon 2 with Little Earth and Ripley – via NASA

McClain inside Dragon 2 with Little Earth and Ripley – via NASA

Expedition 59 NASA astronaut Anne McClain is helped out of the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft just minutes after she, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on June 25, 2019, Kazakh time.

The Soyuz capsule with astronauts from Canada, Russia and the United States landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan at 8.47am local time (1.47am Irish time) on Tuesday, less than a minute ahead of the scheduled time, after a three-and-a-half-hour flight from the orbiting lab.

Arriving at 0247 GMT (9.47am in Thailand) to warm conditions, Kononenko joked that he was "happy to see any kind of weather" after coming back from space.

Saint-Jacques' mission began on December 3, when he was part of the first crewed Soyuz mission following a rocket mishap that forced a spacecraft carrying two astronauts to abort and make an emergency landing last October.

The first crew to blast off to the International Space Station following a launch accident that deepened doubts over Russia's space programme returned to earth safely on Tuesday. The trio touched down inside the Russian-built Soyuz capsule.

The Expedition 59 crew assisted with many biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science experiments during their 204-day mission, including investigating small devices that replicate the function of human organs, recycling 3D-printed material, and editing DNA in space for the first time.

Thirsk clocked 187 days at the ISS in 2009 during a typical six-month mission, while 49-year-old Saint-Jacques' mission will stand at 204 days.

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Each crew member also had milestone spacewalks: McClain on her first space trip completed two spacewalks, while Saint-Jacques, who was also on his first mission, was the sixth Canadian astronaut to perform a spacewalk.

Of the three, Kononenko was the veteran.

"Kononenko, on his fourth mission, conducted two spacewalks totaling 13 hours and 46 minutes, bringing his career total to 32 hours and 13 minutes spread over five spacewalks", NASA reported in a blog update.

As soon as the departing trio's ride left the space station's docking port, Expedition 60 commenced inside ISS.

Expedition 60 commanders Alexey Ovchinin, NASA flight engineer Nick Hague and Christina Koch will now assume leadership of the International Space Station.

The space station's population will double in a month.

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