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Snowy Expedition 38 landing sees crew emerge in 'good spirits'

Elizabeth Howell, News Writer
Mar 12, 2014, 7:00 UTC

Sen—Deep snow and windy conditions did not deter recovery forces from authorizing the Expedition 38 crew to make a landing in Kazakhstan early Tuesday morning (March 11).

Despite some reports that Roscosmos would wave off the landing for another day, the arrival of Oleg Kotov, Michael Hopkins and Sergey Ryazanskiy proceeded on schedule and also seamlessly, with the crew's Soyuz capsule landing upright in about six inches of snow.

Each crew member emerged smiling from the spacecraft after spending 166 days in space. "As you can see, the crew is all in good spirits despite landing in pretty frozen conditions in Kazakhstan," NASA Television stated after all three astronauts and cosmonauts were extracted.

A minimal recovery team (stripped of most non-essential personnel) was sent to meet the astronauts as the area experienced windy, snowy conditions in the hours before landing. The snow, NASA TV added, "makes getting around a bit more difficult than usual, but that's kind of been the norm for quite a few March landings in Kazakhstan."

The landing capped off an eventful mission for the crew, which participated in the Olympic torch relay, repaired a broken ammonia pump that was crippling experiments on board the station, and performed hundreds of experiments amid other activities such as media appearances.

One of their activities involved sending out several miniature satellites (CubeSats) from the Japanese experiment module of the International Space Station. The fleet of mini-sats is testing things such as smartphone technology, satellite attitude control and Earth observation, NASA said.

Crew members also were on hand when three cargo ships arrived at station, including two Russian Progress crafts and the first of eight planned Orbital Science's Cygnus spacecraft, which will deliver cargo regularly to the orbiting complex until 2016.

NASA's Hopkins and Roscosmos' Ryazanskiy, both rookies before the mission, now each have spacewalking experience under their belts as well as 166 days in space. Kotov, who commanded Expedition 38, is now a veteran of three missions, with 526 days in space across those excursions.

Still on board the space station are Expedition 39 members Koichi Wakata, Rick Mastracchio and Mikhail Tyurin. Wakata, who is from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is the first person from his country to take command of the International Space Station.

The spacefarers are awaiting the arrival of the rest of the Expedition 39 crew -- Alexander Skvortsov, Oleg Artemyev and Steve Swanson -- who are scheduled to depart from Kazakhstan March 25.