A little while ago, NASA astronaut Terry Virts, Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, returned to Earth on the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft, landed without problems in Kazakhstan. The three of them spent nearly six and a half months on the International Space Station, where they arrived on November 24, 2014. They were initially part of the Expedition 42, in the second half of their stay they were part of Expedition 43 with Terry Virts as Station commander.
The three crew members who were part of Expedition 42/43 spent about six and a half months on the International Space Station. It was a stay longer than planned during which they carried out various activities of ordinary maintenance and many scientific experiments.
In the Expedition 42 period work was intense as ever but overall normal as much as it can be considered normal to work on the International Space Station. Instead, the Expedition 43 period became rather more chaotic in its final stage.
Initially, there was an operation that has become routine with the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on April 17, 2015, carrying supplies. It departed on May 21, 2015 returning to Earth experiments and various samples, ending its mission CRS-6.
At the end of May there was also the repositioning of the module PMM (Permanent Multipurpose Module) Leonardo. It was an operation conducted as part of the International Space Station’s expansion. Those will continue and in the coming months will allow to prepare the docking ports of the new American spacecraft that should enter service in 2017.
The problems began in late April, with the launch of the spacecraft Progress M-27M. This Russian cargo was supposed to to carry supplies to the International Space Station but it fell down to Earth in early May. To await the outcome of the investigation on the Soyuz rockets like the one used to launch the Progress M-27M, the end of Expedition 43 was postponed for a few weeks.
Because of this departure delay, Samantha Cristoforetti has become the woman who spent the longest period in orbit with almost 200 days. That’s almost the new record for Italian astronauts regardless of their gender. Her last message on social media was “So long… and thanks for all the fish!”, consistent with her passion for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 🙂
Yesterday, Terry Virts officially handed over command of the International Space Station to the Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, marking the beginning of Expedition 44. The crew will be completed by the arrival of three new members, scheduled for late July.
Typically only a couple of weeks pass between the departure of a trio of astronauts and the arrival of another. The changes of the normal schedule is partly a result of the Progress M-27M mishap. The Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft had to leave because its life was almost at the end but it will take a few more weeks before the spacecraft that will carry the new crew members is ready for launch.