Soyuz TMA-07M returns ISS crew to Earth

by Chris Bergin

The Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft has returned to Earth after undocking from the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday. The Russian vehicle was carrying a three person crew that includes Expedition 35’s now globally famous Commander, Chris Hadfield. The crew successfully landed on the steppe of Kazakhstan, southeast of Dzhezkazgan at 8:31am local time.

Soyuz TMA-07M:

It was an eventful end to Commander Hadfield’s stay on the ISS, as the keys to the Station were handed over to Russian Commander, Pavel Vinogradov.

All three of the returning crewmembers have played their part in making the 146 days of their Expedition 35 mission a memorable period in the Station’s history, not least during the latter part of their stay on the orbital outpost.

The Returning CrewRoman Romanenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) conducted his final major role during his tour of duty during the Russian EVA in April, during which he worked alongside the veteran Vinogradov.

While the EVA involved routine maintenance on the Russian Segment (RS), Romanenko provided some comical moments during the spacewalk, even causing the Russian translator to giggle as her commentary was broadcast over NASA TV.

“I don’t like to work at night time, I’m afraid of the darkness,” not long after joking about how “for some reason the Earth is round,” which was met by bemused silence from the Russian CAPCOM in Moscow.

There was less time for joking during the unscheduled EVA that was conducted by Spacewalkers Chris Cassidy and the third person to be riding home on Soyuz TMA-07M, Tom Marshburn.

The duo ventured outside of the Quest Airlock on Saturday, in search of the source of an ammonia leak that had been observed less than two days before the spacewalkers exited the Quest airlock.

The duo investigated the cooling loop of power channel 2B on the P6 Truss of the Station, and while the system appeared to be clean, the installation of a new Pump Flow Control Subassembly (PFCS).appears to have resolved the issue.

Although it will take weeks before it is known for sure that the leak is an issue of the past, so far all indications appear to show the system is now working nominally.

Prior to the departure of the three crewmembers, Commander Hadfield uploaded a video that has since gone viral.

Command Hadfield singing Space OddityThe Canadian astronaut showed off his singing prowess with a rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, shot on board the ISS. The moving video received praise from Bowie himself, as it was revealed a member of the iconic singer’s tour band was involved in the reproduction of the song.

“The task was in front of me. I came up with a piano part. I then enlisted my friend, producer and fellow Canadian Joe Corcoran to take my piano idea and Chris’ vocal and blow it up into a fully produced song,” noted Emm Gryner. “Drums! mellotrons! fuzz bass! We also incorporated into the track ambient space station noises which Chris had put on his Soundcloud.

“I was mostly blown away by how pure and earnest Chris’ singing is on this track. Like weightlessness and his voice agreed to agree.

“And voila! And astronaut sings Space Oddity in space! I was so honoured to be asked to be a part of this. You wouldn’t get too many chances to make a recording like this and not only that, to make music with someone who – through his vibrant communications with kids in schools to his breathtaking photos to his always patient and good-humoured demeanour – has done more for science and space than anyone else this generation.

“Planet earth IS blue, and there’s nothing left for Chris Hadfield to do. Right. Safe travels home Commander!”

In preparation for that safe trip home, the Soyuz TMA-07M crew donned their Sokol launch and entry suits, closed the hatch between the Orbital Module (BO) and Descent Module (SA), and strapped themselves into their Kazbek couches inside the SA.

View of the ISS during undockingUndocking was on schedule at 23:08 UTC, which was followed by two separations burns to depart the vicinity of the ISS.

“”We can see the entire¬†ISS, with the solar arrays stretched out like arms saying farewell to us,” said Romanenko, who commanded the Soyuz as it departed from the ISS.

Following a few hours of free flight, Soyuz TMA-07M made its de-orbit burn, followed by a landing near the town of Dzhezkazgan on the Steppe of Kazakhstan.

Now the crew are extracted from the SA by Russian recovery forces, they will be flown by MI-8 helicopters to a nearby airfield, where the crew will part ways, with Hadfield and Marshburn boarding a NASA Gulfstream III aircraft to be flown back to Ellington Field in Houston, Texas – via two refuelling stops in Glasgow, Scotland, and Goose Bay, Canada. Romanenko will be flown back to Star City, outside Moscow.

Vinogradov, Chris Cassidy of NASA and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin will tend to the station as a three-person crew for two weeks until the arrival of three new crew members, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency.

(Images: via NASA and L2).

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