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Space station Expedition 32 crew return to Earth

Dr Amanda Doyle, Feature writer
Sep 17, 2012, 7:00 UTC

Sen—Expedition 32 on the International Space Station has come to a close as Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Sergei Revin returned to Earth in their Soyuz capsule, having spent 123 days aboard the station.

Their Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft undocked from the Poisk module at 23:09 UTC on Sunday, signifying the end of Expedition 32 and the beginning of Expedition 33. Padalka, Acaba, and Revin landed safely in Kazakhstan at 02.53 UTC (08:53 local time) Monday. The descent module of their Soyuz craft was slowed down by parachute and then its landing engines were fired a few feet from the ground to soften the landing.

The three astronauts had arrived at the ISS on May 17 and spent 125 days in space, 123 of which were aboard the orbiting outpost. During their time aboard the station they orbited Earth 2,000 times and travelled 52,906,428 miles.

The Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft lands with Expedition 32 Commander Gennady Padalka, Joe Acaba and Sergie Revin in a remote area near the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi

With 711 days in space, Padalka now ranks fourth in the 'most time in space' list. It was Padalka's fourth time in space, the Russian cosmonaut having previously commanded ISS Expeditions 9 and 19. His first outing in space occurred on the Russian Mir space station in 1998.  

Padalka and the other crew members gathered in Destiny laboratory on Saturday afternoon for a ceremonial change of command. Padalka handed control of the International Space Station to Commander Suni Williams, who will lead Expedition 33.

Expedition 32 aboard the International Space Station
Expedition 32 crew in the Kibo laboratory of the ISS. Front row: Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka (center), along with cosmonaut Sergei Revin (left) and NASA astronaut Joe Acaba. Back row: (from the left) are JAXA astronaut Aki Hoshide, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko. Credit: NASA

Williams remains on the station with Flight Engineers Aki Hoshide and Yuri Malenchenko until 12 November. In October, the six member Expedition 33 crew will be complete when Flight Engineers Kevin Ford, Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin arrive at the station. The remaining three members will arrive via the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft.

Williams previously served as a Flight Engineer on Expedition 14. During this time, she completed four spacewalks. She ventured outside the ISS twice during Expedition 32, bringing her total spacewalks up to six, and the amount of time outside the station to 44 hours and two minutes.

There were a total of three spacewalks for the crew members of Expedition 32, as a failed installation of Main Bus Switching Unit, essential for transferring power from the solar panels, meant that an additional spacewalk was needed to complete the installation.