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Ground Control welcomes home space trio

Paul Sutherland, Feature writer
May 14, 2013, 7:00 UTC

Sen—Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield arrived home an Internet hero early today from the International Space Station when he landed safely with colleagues Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko.

The Expedition 35 crew's Soyuz TMA-07M hit the ground in southern Kazakhstan at 02.21 GMT with Romanenko at the controls. As its parachute settled, recovery helicopters swooped in.

A small army of support workers clustered round as the three men were helped from their capsule, then given chairs while they underwent medical checks and adjusted to life after weightlessness.

Calling home on a mobile phone, Cmdr Hadfield said: “Boy, that was quite a ride home! It’s a great little spaceship, we were laughing. It was a lot of fun.”

One of the first reactions came from Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper (@pmharper) on Twitter. He tweeted: “I’m pleased to see that @Cmdr_Hadfield is safely back on planet earth. A reminder that our potential is limitless when we aim high.”

Chris Hadfield on phone

Chris Hadfield calls home on his mobile phone from Kazakhstan. Credit: Roskosmos/NASA TV

Hadfield, with his famous demi-lune moustache, became a public relations wonder for the space station following his launch into space aboard a Soyuz rocket on December 19 with Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko.

He became a masterful user of social media, creating ever fascinating tweets on Twitter, as Sen reported earlier, and continually taking interesting photos of places on the ground and demonstrating how things work aboard the ISS.

But his biggest contribution to the public entertainment was to take the role of  “Major Tom” in a rendition of David Bowie’s early hit Space Oddity. The performance was released on YouTube soon after he handed over command of the space station on Sunday.

Footage of him singing and playing his guitar was turned into a highly professional video, with backing music and splendid imagery of the ISS, and swiftly went viral across the Web.

Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko spent their last hours aboard the station packing some final items, including some experiments, for return to Earth aboard their Soyuz spacecraft. Then it was “commencing countdown, engines on”, in the words of the song, as they undocked at 23.08 GMT from the orbiting outpost’s Rassvet module for the 3h 13m flight home.

The Station is now running with the three remaining crew members, commander Pavel Vinogradov, flight engineer Alexander Misurkin and shuttle veteran Christopher Cassidy, who arrived in March.

Saturday’s spacewalk to fix a leaking cooling network on a solar array appears to have been completely successful, NASA reported. Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn replaced a pump unit that sends liquid ammonia through external radiators to get rid of excess heat.

The next Soyuz is due to arrive on 29 May carrying ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin. They will spend six months on the Station conducting scientific experiments.

Luca has two spacewalks of his own planned to install new equipment and maintain the Station. As Expedition 36/37 flight engineer, he will replace a camera mounted on Japan’s Kibo module, retrieve some experiments and help prepare for the arrival later this year of Russia’s Multipurpose Laboratory Module and the ESA-built European Robotic Arm.

Oh, and just in case you haven’t seen it . . .