NASA astronaut, cosmonauts, land back on Earth from space station
by Sommer Brokaw
Washington DC (UPI) Apr 17, 2021
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikiov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov landed on Earth on Saturday after a half-year International Space Station mission.
They departed the station in their Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft at 9:34 p.m. EDT Friday and landed safely under parachutes at 12:55 a.m. EDT Saturday in Kazakhstan after spending 185 days in space, NASA announced.
Ryzhikiov and Kud-Sverchkov are slated to return to their training base in Star City, Russia. Rubins is scheduled to fly home to Houston.
The trio on the Expedition 64 mission took off in a Soyuz rocket on October 14 from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station.
The six-month mission on the orbiting microgravity laboratory included work on hundreds of biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science experiments during their six months, according to NASA.
The trio welcomed in November Crew -1 SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi aboard the flight.
Rubins, a flight engineer, completed two spacewalks alongside Glover and Noguchi, bringing her total to four spacewalks in her two spaceflights, according to NASA, which also noted that Rubins logged 300 days across her two spaceflights, the fourth most days in space by a U.S. female astronaut.
Rubins, who has a doctorate in cancer biology from Stanford University Medical School, was also aboard the first test flight of the then-new Soyuz MS spacecraft that launched to the ISS in July 2016, according to NASA.
On her first flight, she became the first person to sequence DNA in space, eventually sequencing over 2 billion base pairs of DNA in a series of experiments to analyze sequencing in microgravity.
She also worked on an experiment on how changes in gravity affect cardiovascular cells, which could aid screening measures to predict cardiovascular risk prior to spaceflight.
The voyage was the second spaceflight for Ryzhikov and the first for Kud-Sverchkov.
When the trio left the station, Expedition 65 officially began with NASA astronaut Walker of SpaceX Crew-1, serving as station commander, marking the first time a Houston native has done so, NASA noted.
Last week, NASA's Mark Vande Hei, and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov joined the trio and SpaceX Crew-1 that arrived in November at the International Space Station.
On Thursday, the launch of NASA's SpaceX Crew-2, composed of NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, will bring the Expedition 65 crew to 11 people.
Walker will lead the crew until the departure of SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience on April 28, at which point command will be handed over to Hoshide.
Rubins will discuss her latest mission in a news conference at 3:15 p.m. EDT Wednesday to air live on NASA television, the NASA app, and the agency's website.
Two Russian cosmonauts, NASA astronaut return from ISS
Russia's Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov as well as NASA's Kate Rubins landed on barren land at 0455 GMT around 150 kilometres (90 miles) southeast of the town of Zhezkazgan.
The Soyuz descent module carring the trio landed upright after descending through a cloudless sky on a fine spring day in central Kazakhstan, a Roscosmos TV commentator confirmed.
Molecular biologist Rubins, 42, and former military pilot Ryzhikov, 46, were rounding off their second missions in space having both made their ISS debuts following launches in July and October of 2016 respectively.
Kud'-Sverchkov, 39, another ex-military man, was completing his first mission.
Footage from the landing site showed Rubins smiling as she received a bouquet of flowers from retired cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, who was there to greet the crew.
"It is great to be on this side of things," Rubins said.
She will return to NASA's hub in Houston while colleagues Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov are bound for Moscow as they wind down their missions.
During her debut mission in 2016, Rubins became the first person to sequence DNA in space.
In her second mission she continued her sequencing activities, worked on cariovascular experiments and oversaw a small patch of radishes "as they grew in orbit... harvesting them for analysis back on Earth", according to NASA.
- Busy orbital lab -
For the last decade, the space station's population has typically varied between three and six as crews that blasted off from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan came and went.
Entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX last year broke the monopoly that Russia and Baikonur had held on manned launches since the mothballing of the US shuttle programme in 2011, beginning a new chapter of spaceflight from US soil.
As a result the number of crew on board will reach 11 next week with the arrival of NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 mission.
NASA's Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency are expected to dock with the ISS next Friday, with the four-person crew they are replacing scheduled to return to Earth on April 28.
The absolute record for people aboard the ISS was set in 2009, when an arriving crew took the orbital lab's population to 13.
That is also the joint all-time record for the most people in space at any one time after seven astronauts were aboard the NASA space shuttle Endeavour and a six-man crew was aboard the Mir space station simultaneously in March 1995.
Continuously occupied for more than 20 years, the ISS is expected to be retired before the end of the decade, raising questions about future cooperation between Russia and the West in space.
NASA on Friday said it had selected SpaceX to develop a spacecraft to land the first astronauts on the surface of the Moon since 1972 -- a huge victory for Elon Musk's company.
April 12 marked the sixtieth anniversary of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's historic mission marking the beginning of human spaceflight and a key moment in the space race between Moscow and the West.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union there has been more cooperation than competition, although it is difficult to disguise the appearance that Roscosmos and NASA are going their separate ways as the ISS winds down.
NASA will continue working with Russia on space despite China plan
Washington DC (UPI) Apr 13, 2021
Russia and NASA will continue to cooperate in space in the near future, even as Russia moves to work with China on lunar exploration, experts said. Russia and China announced March 9 they will cooperate on China's planned International Scientific Lunar Station, while the United States will have no involvement in the Chinese space program under a law passed in 2011. But ultimately, the United States and Russia have many reasons to continue cooperating in space, said Kaitlyn Johnson, deput ... read more
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