At the end of its parachute, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft fires its landing pyrotechnic devices as it touches down, bringing a U.S.-Russian crew back to Earth from the International Space Station. (NASA Photo / Bill Ingalls)
What better way to celebrate the 61st anniversary of the start of the Space Age than to see the successful return of U.S. and Russian spacefliers from orbit?
NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, touched down in the steppes of Kazakhstan at 5:44 p.m. local time (4:44 a.m. PT) today, 61 years after Russians sent their Sputnik satellite into space to kick off the U.S.-Soviet space race.
The landing came hours after the trio’s departure from the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Their tour of duty in space amounted to 197 days, highlighted by three spacewalks undertaken by Feustel and Arnold to replace and upgrade space station equipment.
Artemyev got in on some spacewalk action as well. He went on an outing with Russian crewmate Sergey Prokopyev in August, during which they tossed four nanosatellites into orbit.
The trio’s departure leaves three crew members aboard the space station, headed by German astronaut Alexander Gerst, ...