When the Expedition 49 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) came to an end over the weekend, three space travelers returned to Earth on a Soyuz spacecraft while a NASA photographer capturing their arrival from the air in some spectacular photos.
The crew, consisting of Anatoly Ivanishin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, floated back to Earth in the Soyuz MS-01 space capsule, landing in Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan at 9:58 a.m. local time on Sunday, Oct. 30 (11:58 p.m. EDT Oct. 29). NASA photographer Bill Ingalls captured gorgeous images of the space capsule's descent, including one breathtaking photo showing the Soyuz passing through serene rays of sunlight beneath a serene cloud layer. [See a video of the landing here]
Expedition 49 crewmembers took part in many experiments in the fields of biology and biotechnology, as well as physical and Earth science during their 115 days in orbit. They also received three cargo shipments launched to the space station from Earth and unloaded several tons of supplies and experiments. [Apollo-Soyuz: How the First Joint Space Mission Worked (Infographic)]
Video of the crew exiting the Soyuz shows the three in good spirits and glad to be home. After touchdown, the trio of space travelers underwent standard field tests to assess their physical health before taking helicopters back to the staging grounds in Karaganda, Kazakhstan. Following an official welcoming ceremony with Roscosmos, the crew parted ways with Rubins and Onishi heading to Houston, Texas.
During her stay in space, Rubins contributed to the Biomolecule Sequencer experiment among other new studies aboard the space station. These new biological studies on the ISS, specifically DNA sequencing, could allow astronauts to diagnose illness or even identify potential health threats in microbes growing onboard.
Rubins, in her first trip to the International Space Station, also left the safety of the space station for two spacewalks with NASA astronaut Jeff Williams while she was in space. During the extravehicular activities (EVAs), the astronauts installed the station's first international docking adapter. They also installed two additional high-definition cameras and removed an extra thermal control radiator.