With the return of Soyuz MS-04, Peggy Whitson has established a new record — at 665 days, the most cumulative spaceflight hours for any woman on Earth, and also for any American. Globally, she stands at #8 for cumulative spaceflight time. She is also the only woman to have commanded the ISS twice, and also holds the female record for number of EVAs (ten, with a cumulative time of 60 hours, 21 minutes — there are only two men ahead of her in the overall records, Anatoly Solovyev and Michael Lopez-Alegria, with the caveat that record-holder Solovyev’s 16 EVAs does include two internal spacewalks aboard Mir).
Whitson returned in good health, as did her two crewmates, Soyuz commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Jack Fischer. There’s gorgeous video of the final descent:
The international crew of Soyuz MS-01 have returned to Earth! Anatoly Ivanishin, Takuya Onishi, and Kate Rubins landed in Kazakhstan today. The lighting was phenomenal, and this is I think the clearest image I’ve ever seen of a Soyuz landing. You can see all the parachute lines and everything.
And the video is really good too. Watch right at the very beginning as you see puffs from the pyrotechnics firing to jettison the heat shield:
Two big spaceflight events today. 😉 Ariane V blasted off from Kourou in French Guiana, carrying EchoStar 18 andBRISat. Combined, they represented the heaviest payload ever launched by the mighty Ariane V. EchoStar 15 will serve DISH television customers in the United States, while BRISat will provide secure satellite communication links for financial transactions in Indonesia, a nation distributed across many islands and therefore heavily dependent on radio communications.
And on the other side of the planet, Soyuz TMA-19M descended to the plains of Kazakhstan. The descent was nominal. The three crew are in good health: Yuri Malenchenko (Ukrainian, flying for Russia), Tim Kopra (United States) and Tim Peake (United Kingdom, flying for ESA). It’s kind of a noisy replay; I assume that’s noise from the recovery helicopter that is carrying the camera. You can jump to 5:20 if you want to see the soft landing thrusters fire.
This is so cool. 😉 Here’s the full webcast, as it ran live, including all the massive geeking out and pure unadulterated joy when it nails the landing:
Stunning closeup video of the landing from a helicopter:
And lastly, dawn rises on the spent Falcon 9 first stage, as a crane is attached to prepare to move it back to SLC-40 (presumably) for a ground test firing to prove that it has endured the flight and return. This stage is not expected to actually fly again; I would expect it will be subjected to destructive testing to look for signs of stress fatigue instead.
And then there’s this awesome timelapse photo released by SpaceX, taken from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building. The long streak is the launch track. The short streak up high is the reentry burn. The short streak that goes to the ground is the landing burn. Pretty cool. 😉
This is taken from an aircraft watching the landing from a safe distance. It goes all the way to where the rocket tips over and goes splat. It disappears into the clouds of steam it has kicked up, and then KABOOM! Certainly a dramatic way to end a mission. Hopefully the next one is better. 😉 They seem to be learning from each flight — this one appears to be better targeted than the last one was. In a few days, the barge will return to port with whatever debris is still on it and they’ll be able to recover video from there. Should be interesting.
Meanwhile, the CRS-6 Dragon is in good health and on track for capture and berthing at the ISS on Friday.
It touched down on the steppes of Kazakhstan last Wednesday, returning Alexander Skvortsov, Oleg Artemyev, and outgoing ISS Expedition 40 commander Steven Swanson to the Earth after a six-month increment aboard the ISS.
They left ISS in the command of Expedition 41 commander Maxim Suraev, Reid Wiseman, and Alexander Gerst. They’ll be joined in a few weeks by Alexander Samokutyaev, Barry “Butch” Wilmore, and Elena Serova, who will be Russia’s first female cosmonaut in a very long time, and the first to make a long-duration spaceflight.
Shenzhou 10 has returned to Earth, following a reentry profile very similar to Soyuz; the descent module in particular is a Soyuz-heritage design, with the same robustness allowing for a survivable return even in the event of near complete system failures. Here we see it descend under parachute and touch down in Inner Mongolia. From the video, I think there must’ve been more wind than expected, because the parachute remains inflated after touchdown, and photographs taken after landing reveal that it pulled the capsule over onto its side. This sometimes happens with Soyuz as well. The problem could be resolved by cutting the parachute bridles immediately after touchdown, but both Russia and China prefer not to do that as the parachute could become a hazard to the public and recovery crews if it were allowed to just blow away.
Welcome home, Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang, and Wang Yaping!