WASHINGTON - Expedition 24 Commander Alexander Skvortsov and Flight Engineers Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Mikhail Kornienko landed their Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft in Kazakhstan on Saturday, Sept. 25, wrapping up a six-month stay aboard the International Space Station.
Skvortsov, the Soyuz commander, was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked at 10:02 p.m. EDT Friday from the Poisk module's docking port on the station's Zvezda module. The undocking and landing occurred a day later than planned because of a hatch sensor problem Thursday night. That problem prevented hooks on the Poisk side of the docking mechanism from opening. Station crew members installed a series of jumper cables, bypassing the sensor, and the Poisk module hooks retracted.
Following undocking and a normal descent, the crew landed at 1:23 a.m. near Arkalyk, Kazakhstan.
Russian recovery teams were on hand to help the crew exit the Soyuz vehicle and adjust to gravity after 176 days in space. Skvortsov and Kornienko will return Saturday to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, outside of Moscow.
The trio launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in April. As members of the Expedition 23 and 24 crews, they spent 174 days on the station. Caldwell Dyson and Expedition 25 Commander Doug Wheelock conducted three spacewalks to replace a faulty cooling pump module on the station's backbone, known as the truss. Kornienko conducted one spacewalk to prepare the recently delivered Russian Rassvet Module for future automated dockings by Russian spacecraft.
The station is occupied by Wheelock, who assumed command of the station Wednesday, NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker, and Russian Flight Engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin, who arrived in mid-June.
A new trio of Expedition 25 crew members - NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka - will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Oct. 7 (Oct. 8 in Kazakhstan) and arrive on the station about 48 hours later.
For more information about the space station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station. To follow Twitter updates from Expedition 24/25 crew member Wheelock and Exp. 26 Commander Kelly, visit http://twitter.com/Astro_Wheels or http://twitter.com/StationCDRkelly.