Three Expedition 45 astronauts safely return to Earth

Washington, Dec 12 (IANS) Expedition 45 flight engineer Kjell Lindgren from NASA was among three crew members who returned to the Earth on Friday after a 141-day mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Lindgren, Oleg Kononenko of Russian Federal Space Agency and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency landed safely in Kazakhstan on board a Soyuz spacecraft, the US space agency said in a statement.

The crew touched down northeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan, marking the first crew landing to occur after sunset and only the sixth night-time Soyuz spacecraft return from the space station.

With the end of this mission, Kononenko now has spent 533 days in space, and Lindgren and Yui, both on their first flight, have spent 141 days in space.

While on station, the crew members participated in the Earth observations and conducted research in the areas of physical, biological and molecular science to advance knowledge and demonstrate new technologies.

Such investigations enable research breakthroughs and drive technology innovations that provide benefits on the Earth, and will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration missions into deep space.

Lindgren and Yui took part in the Veggie plant growth experiment that yielded fresh lettuce for crew consumption in August this year.

NASA is maturing Veggie technology aboard the space station to provide future pioneers with a sustainable food supplement — a critical part of NASA’s journey to Mars.

As NASA moves toward long-duration exploration missions farther into the solar system, Veggie will be a resource for crew food growth and consumption.

The system also could be used by astronauts for recreational gardening activities during deep space missions and may have implications for improving growth and biomass production on the Earth, benefiting the average citizen.

Another key research area during Expedition 45 is the continued one-year mission with NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Roscosmos’ Mikhail Kornienko that provides insight into human health management for long-duration space travel.

Expedition 46 continues operating the station, with Kelly in command. Along with Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos, the three-person crew will operate the station for four days till the arrival of three new crew members.

NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) are scheduled to launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan on December 15.

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