NASA astronaut Anne McClain and two of her fellow International Space Station (ISS) crewmates returned safely to Earth at 10:47 p.m. ET on June 24. The trio of space travelers landed in Kazakhstan (at 8:47 a.m. Tuesday, June 25 local time). Their successful journey home concludes a 204-day interstellar mission during which they orbited Earth 3,264 times.
ISS Crew Members Come Home
McClain, Expedition 59 and Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency launched into space on December 3, 2018, aboard the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft. After a six-hour flight, they arrived at ISS for approximately a six-month stay.
Four days before her departure from the orbiting lab (June 20), McClain took to Twitter to marvel about her experience. Moreover, she challenged her social media followers to get outside of their comfort zones.
She wrote, “…it’s really amazing how the human mind & body can adapt to new environments. How the once incredible can become so normal. I encourage all humans to do something out of your comfort zone that forces you to adapt. You’ll be pleasantly surprised of your capabilities.”
L-4 (2 of 2):…it's really amazing how the human mind & body can adapt to new environments. How the once incredible can become so normal. I encourage all humans to do something out of your comfort zone that forces you to adapt. You'll be pleasantly surprised of your capabilities.
— Anne McClain (@AstroAnnimal) June 20, 2019
The trio’s spacecraft reportedly separated from the Poisk Module at the ISS at 7:25 p.m. ET on June 24. After making a successful three-and-a-half-hour flight, the Soyuz MS-11 rocket touched down in Kazakhstan.
According to Space.com, Russian recovery forces, along with medical teams from NASA and the Canadian Space Agency met Kononenko, McClain, and Saint-Jacques on the ground. All three crew members “appeared to be in good spirits as they began adjusting to gravity while undergoing brief medical checks.”
Once medically cleared, Kononenko will return to Star City, Russia, and McClain and Saint-Jacques will return to Houston, Texas.
Accomplishments in Space
Overall, the Expedition 59 crew conducted hundreds of scientific experiments while onboard the space station. Some of the studies included recycling 3-D printed material, editing DNA in space, testing the Astrobee autonomous flying assistant, and releasing “Nanosats” into low Earth orbit (LEO).
Furthermore, the homecoming trio traveled 86,430,555 miles in their outer space journey. Plus, McClain completed two spacewalks, which totaled 13 hours and eight minutes.
The ISS assignment marked McClain and Saint-Jacques’ first space mission. Notably, Saint-Jacques is the sixth Canadian astronaut ever to complete a spacewalk. He joined McClain on her second exit outside the ISS, which lasted six hours and 29 minutes.
Moreover, Kononenko completed his fourth mission and performed two spacewalks on this trip, logging a total of 13 hours and 46 minutes. The former ISS leader’s new efforts raised his career total to 32 hours and 13 minutes across five spacewalks.
McClain celebrated her achievements on Twitter, summing up her “full circle” homecoming moment with a photo of her exit from the Soyuz spaceship. She captioned it with a quote from T.S. Eliot. She wrote:
“… and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T. S. Eliot pic.twitter.com/rGrzUHcN4D
— Anne McClain (@AstroAnnimal) June 25, 2019
Space Studies Continue
Before leaving, Oleg Kononenko passed command of the ISS over to fellow Roscosmos crew member Alexey Ovchinin. The Russian cosmonaut will lead the onboard Expedition 60 crew which includes NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague, who will serve as space station flight engineers.
Moving forward, the resident ISS team will continue conducting important space studies aboard the orbiting laboratory, including some that are part of incoming NASA mission payloads that SpaceX recently launched on the Falcon Heavy.
Furthermore, new space station arrivals will blast off in the Soyuz MS-13 rocket on July 20. NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos will launch into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and join the current ISS crew after a six-hour journey.