30 November 2010
A Soyuz descent module carrying two US astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut
back to earth from the International Space Station landed safely in Kazakhstan
26 November 2010. The spacecraft, containing Russian commander Fyodor Yurichikhin
and Nasa's Douglas Wheelock and Shannon Walker touched down as planned this
morning north of the remote central Kazakh town of Arkalyk. Today's textbook
landing is sure to calm worries about dependence on the Russian Soyuz flights
after unprecedented troubles undocking during the craft's last re-entry in
October forced the three-member crew to remain an extra day in orbit scrambling
to free jammed latches.
The mishap in a space programme that depends on pinpoint accuracy came as
NASA is due to mothball its Discovery shuttle programme later this year.
With the Shuttles' retirement, NASA has turned over station crew ferry flights
to Russia, at a cost of $51 million per person. The Shuttle program is ending
after 30 years of flights due to high operating costs of about $3 billion
a year. The United States does not have a replacement vehicle.
The International Space Station crew of Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurichikhin
(C) and US astronauts Douglas Wheelock (L) and Shannon Walker sit inside
the landing capsule of the Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft after landing in Kazakhstan.
Photos below by NASA/Bill Ingalls.
Soyuz TMA-19 Descent Module Landing Photos