Space Station Crew Back on Earth
Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov, the 15th crew of the International Space Station, landed safely in their Soyuz spacecraft at 6:36 a.m. EDT Sunday in the steppes of Kazakhstan.
Image above: Cosmonauts Fyodor N. Yurchikhin (right) and Oleg V. Kotov (center), Expedition 15 commander and flight engineer, respectively, representing Russia's Federal Space Agency; and Malaysian spaceflight participant Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor pose for a photo in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
A ballistic descent for the returning Soyuz resulted in a landing about 210 miles west of the nominal landing site.
With Expedition 15 was spaceflight participant Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, a Malaysian flying under an agreement with the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos). He arrived at the station with the Expedition 16 crew, Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko, and spent almost nine days on the orbiting laboratory.
Yurchikhin, 48, wound up his second flight into space. He was a member of the STS-112 crew which launched to the station on Oct. 7, 2002, with the Starboard 1 Truss. He holds a Ph.D. in economics and was named a cosmonaut-candidate in 1997.
Kotov, 41, finished his first spaceflight. He graduated from the Moscow Medical Academy in 1988, and was named a cosmonaut-candidate in 1996.
Astronaut Clayton Anderson was a member of the E15 crew during the latter part of its increment. Anderson is scheduled to remain on the station for the first part of E16. He is scheduled to be replaced by Dan Tani, to arrive aboard Discovery on its STS-120 mission. Discovery will take Anderson back to Earth.
Tani, 46, holds a master's degree in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was selected as an astronaut in 1996 and flew on Endeavour's STS-108 mission in December 2001. He will be making his second spaceflight.
Before closing the Soyuz-station hatches Sunday, Yurchikhin and Kotov said farewell to the E16 crew. Whitson and Malenchenko launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Oct. 10.
Whitson, 47, is on her second mission to the station. She served as a flight engineer on the Expedition 5 crew, launching June 5, 2002, and returning to Earth Dec 7, after almost 185 days in space. She holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Rice University in Houston. She began working for NASA as a research biochemist in 1989 and was selected as an astronaut in 1996.
Malenchenko, 45, a Russian Air Force colonel, is making his third long-duration spaceflight. He spent 126 days aboard the Russian space station Mir beginning July 1, 1994, and commanded the two-person station crew on Expedition 7, spending 185 days in space beginning April 26, 2003. He also was a member of the STS-106 crew of Atlantis on an almost-12-day mission to the station beginning Sept. 8, 2000. He is a graduate of the Kharkov Military Aviation School and the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy.
Yurchikhin and Kotov will spend several weeks in Star City, near Moscow, for debriefing and medical examinations.