Touchdown: Astronauts are on the ground

Touchdown: Astronauts are on the ground

The most experienced NASA astronaut in history and two Russian cosmonauts have just completed a huge mission aboard the ISS.

Three brave men have just landed back on Earth: NASA’s most experienced astronaut, Jeff Williams, and cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka of Russia. Their spacecraft, a Soyuz TMA-20M, landed in Kazakhstan on Tuesday night. Russian recovery teams were on hand to help get the crew out of their capsule. They will need to get used to gravity again after six months in space.

The landing was broadcast live by NASA. It was Williams’ fourth trip to the International Space Station. He now has 534 days in space, which is more than any other U.S. astronaut in history.

Williams helped prepare the station for the eventual arrival of commercial crew spacecraft, as NASA looks to divest itself from the ISS and hand it over to commercial interests.

“No other U.S. astronaut has Jeff’s time and experience aboard the International Space Station. From his first flight in 2000, when the station was still under construction, to present day where the focus is science, technology development and fostering commercialization. Jeff even helped prepare the space station for future dockings of commercial spacecraft under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program,” said Kirk Shireman, ISS Program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We’re incredibly proud of what Jeff has accomplished off the Earth for the Earth.”

The statement adds: “The crew members also welcomed five cargo spacecraft during their stay. Williams was involved in the grapple of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft in March, the company’s fourth commercial resupply mission, and SpaceX’s eighth Dragon spacecraft cargo delivery in April, and welcomed a second Dragon delivery in July. Two Russian ISS Progress cargo craft also docked to the station in April and July delivering tons of supplies.”

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