National Post

Three astronauts return to Earth

- By Rachel Feltman

On Friday morning, three astronauts ended a 141- day j-aunt in space when they land ed safely in Kazakhstan.

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko were the first crew to land after sunset.

But despite the dark — and the poor weather conditions — rescue helicopter­s were able to spot the Soyuz capsule they landed in.

F-rom a layperson’s stand point, coming back to Earth is arguably the scariest part of space travel.

I- nternation­al Space Sta tion veteran Doug Wheelock said that a Soyuz landing is like “going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, but the barrel is on fire.”

“It is a feast for the senses,” he said.

“It’s incredibly bumpy and hot and cramped. You have a lot of G- forces pushing you down.”

And once you land, there’s no telling how much you might bounce — or how long it will take the rescue crew to come open the hatch and let you out.

Luckily, i t’s usually not more than a few minutes. This w-as the first mission for Lind gren and Yui, but Kononenko m- ust be used to the fiery bar rel ride of re- entry by now: With three missions under his belt, the cosmonaut has spent a cumulative 533 days in space.

Lindgren executed two

It’s a feast for the senses. It’s incredibly bumpy, hot and cramped

planned spacewalks during his five- month mission, and h- e participat­ed in the Veg gie plant growth experiment, w- hich gave his crew the hon our of eating the first space-grown vegetables.

T- hat veggie- growing tech nology is being tested and tweaked in the hopes of supporting astronauts on longterm missions to such places as Mars in the near future.

The current commander of the ISS, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, is part of that grand experiment, as well: Kelly is spending a full year in space while NASA monitors both him and his identical twin, retired astronaut Mark Kelly. Studying the subtle ways their bodies change over the course of a year could help scientists gain some insight into the physical effects of extended space flight.

W- ednesday, t he ISS re ceived its first U. S. shipment i-n more than half a year, load ed with Christmas presents and much- needed groceries for the resident astronauts.

As one of his last tasks on the ISS, Lindgren used the space station’s big robot arm t- o grab the capsule Wednes day and its more than three tons of cargo.

The operation we n t smoothly, thanks to all the practice Lindgren put i n. He operated the crane via joy sticks, joking earlier this week, “I knew those hours playing video games would come in handy!”

 ??  ?? A computer-generated simulation shows an asteroid striking the Earth in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula around 150 million years ago, leading to the eventual extinction of the dinosaurs.
A computer-generated simulation shows an asteroid striking the Earth in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula around 150 million years ago, leading to the eventual extinction of the dinosaurs.

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