The return of three astronauts from the International Space Station marks the end of Expedition 52

Peggy Whitson, Fyodor Yurchikhin and Jack Fischer after landing (Image NASA TV)
Peggy Whitson, Fyodor Yurchikhin and Jack Fischer after landing (Image NASA TV)

A few hours ago the astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer and the cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin returned to Earth on the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft, that landed without problems in Kazakhstan. Peggy Whitson spent more than 9 months on the International Space Station, where she arrived on November 19, 2016 as part of Expedition 50. Jack Fischer and Fyodor Yurchikhin spent just over 4 months on the International Space Station, where they arrived on April 20 2017 as part of Expedition 51.

During the time spent on the International Space Station, the three crew members have been conducting various maintenance activities and many scientific experiments. Other activities involved the arrival of two SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft: one arrived on June 5 and departed on July 3 and the other arrived on August 16. Two more cargo spacecraft arrived in the previous months are departed to disintegrate in the Earth’s atmosphere: the American Orbital ATK Cygnus “Rick Husband” on June 4 and the Russian Progress MS-05 on July 20.

During the Expedition 52 period, a spacewalk took place that involved Fyodor Yurchikhin along with his fellow cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy. In addition to some maintenance operations outside the Russian segment of the International Space Station, the two cosmonauts manually deployed five nanosatellites into orbit.

Peggy Whitson’s mission was originally supposed to end three months ago but changes in Russian space agency plans, with a reduction of cosmonauts, left a seat available on the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft for its return to Earth. For this reason, Whitson spent three more months on the International Space Station setting the record among the American astronauts for the total time spent in space with a total of 665 days.

The schedule of the American astronauts who just returned to Earth has been modified following the devastation caused by Hurricane / tropical storm Harvey in Houston. Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer will go first to Cologne, Germany, along with the scientific samples they brought back with them, where they will meet the NASA staff that arrive for the occasion thanks to ESA’s assistance. Meanwhile, the situation at the Johnson Space Center is being checked up to ensure they can resume operations in Houston.

On Friday, August 30, Fyodor Yurchikhin officially handed over the command of the International Space Station to the American astronaut Randy Bresnik, marking the beginning of Expedition 53. NASA usually broadcasts the event along with a briefing about the return of the astronauts to Earth but the situation in Houston led to its cancellation. Nevertheless, the operations on the Station go on and the crew will be completed with the arrival of new members, whose launch is scheduled for September 12.

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