The return of three astronauts from the International Space Station marks the end of Expedition 50

Shane Kimbrough, Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko assisted after their landing (Image NASA TV)
Shane Kimbrough, Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko assisted after their landing (Image NASA TV)

A little while ago the astronaut Shane Kimbrough and the cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko returned to Earth on the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft, that landed without problems in Kazakhstan. The three of them spent more than five months on the International Space Station, where they arrived on October 21, 2016 as part of Expedition 49.

During the period spent on the International Space Station, the three crew members have been conducting various maintenance activities and many scientific experiments. Other activities include spacecraft arriving and departing.

In recent months a number of spacewalks have been carried out to perform various update operations for the International Space Station’s equipment and to continue the set up work for the American spacecraft that will enter service as early as 2018.

Shane Kimbrough participated in four spacewalks: the one on January 6, 2017, that lasted about six and a half hours, the one on January 13, that lasted about six hours, the one on March 2, that lasted about six and a half hours and the one on March 30, that lasted seven hours. In the first two he worked together with the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, in the other two with the American astronaut Peggy Whitson, both of them of Expedition 50/51.

During the Expedition 50 period there was quite some traffic due to cargo spacecraft. On November 21, 2016 the Orbital ATK Cygnus freighter left the International Space Station to disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere. On December 13, 2016 came the Japanese HTV-6 freighter, that departed on January 27, 2017 to disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere. On February 23 came the SpaceX Dragon freighter, that returned to Earth on March 19. On February 24 came the Russian Progress MS-05 freighter.

On Sunday, April 9, Shane Kimbrough officially handed over the command of the International Space Station to the American astronaut Peggy Whitson, marking the beginning of Expedition 51. The crew will be completed with the arrival of new members, whose launch is scheduled for April 20. There will be only two new crew members because the Russian space agency Roscosmos decided to reduce the number of cosmonauts on the International Space Station.

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