Everything was according to plan, Expedition 46 Soyuz TMA-18M return safely to Earth after leaving International Space Station.
Punctually at 21:43 GMT Sergey Volkov, Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko closed the hatch of Soyuz TMA-18M and docked to Poisk module on International Space Station. Sergey Volkov took commander’ seat, Mikhail Kornienko took a role of board engineer on the left side and Scott Kelly sat on the right seat of Soyuz. Undocking was performed at 01:11 GMT and Soyuz, after 181 days separated from ISS. At 03:33 GMT Soyuz engines are starting and spacecraft is reducing speed to de orbit. Four minutes later, after reducing speed to 460 km/h, engines were stopped. At 04:00 GMT, on altitude of 140 km, Soyuz started separation of Descent Module from Orbital Module connected to Instrumentation/Propulsion Module. Both jettisoned modules will burn in atmosphere; Descent Module is reentering with an angle of 1.35°. Now Soyuz will getting close to landing zone which was targeted for 47.33° N latitude and 69.58° E in Kazakhstan. At 04:10 GMT drogue parachutes are deployed to reduce speed from 230 m/s to 80 m/s, crew members inside capsule felt full force of gravitation. One minute later after jettisoning drogue parachutes, main parachute was deployed. Soyuz heat shield is jettisoned and shock absorbers mounted in seats are armed and ready to fire. At 04:19 GMT Soyuz is starting soft landing engines and shock absorbers. Touch down is performed with correct speed of 1.5 m/s. After 21 minutes rescue teams confirmed successful landing – at 05:00 GMT all three crew members are out of Soyuz capsule.
Scott Kelly (left) and Mikhail Kornienko (right).
Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko spent in space 340 days during mission “Year in Space”. It was test of influence of long term remaining in space for human body. Due the brilliant coincidence NASA had possibility to compare two almost identical human bodies – Scott Kelly and his twin brother Mark Kelly who is also an astronaut but spent last year on Earth. Results will be crucial for planned future long term space missions like manned flight to the Mars and will answer main question. Is it possible for human to spend one year in microgravity and still be able to take immediately actions in gravity conditions. Mission also was objected on psychical aspect of long term isolation in constant conditions. Mission has also other aspect – Scott Kelly became first American astronaut who spent 340 days in space.