Expedition 34 Crew Returns To Earth From Space Station

By Staff Reporter on March 16, 2013 5:26 AM EDT

Expedition 34
Expedition 34 rests at the Kazakhstan landing site with the recovery crew and Soyuz TMA-06M behind them. (Photo: NASA TV)

Three crew members of Expedition 34 returned to the Earth Friday after spending 142 days aboard the International Space Station.

Russian Soyuz TMA-06M capsule, carrying American astronaut Kevin Ford and two Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin, landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan at an estimated time of 11:08 p.m. EST.

"They've landed. Expedition 34 is back on Earth," NASA spokesman Rob Navias said during live commentary.

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The spacecraft was earlier scheduled to return to Earth Thursday, but the journey was delayed due to bad weather. The Soyuz capsule was undocked at 7:43 p.m. from the Poisk Mini-Research Module 2.

Despite low visibility and freezing temperatures, Russian recovery teams were at the landing site to help the three crew members adjust to gravity after spending 144 days in space, said NASA.

NASA TV streamed the live coverage of the three crew members as they were being shifted from the capsule to semi-reclined chairs in order to help them get acclimatized to the Earth's gravity, reported the Associated Press.

The return of Expedition 34 crew members marked the beginning of Expedition 35 aboard the space station. Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield became the commander of Expedition 35, after Ford (commander of Expedition 34) handed the command ceremonially to Hadfield Wednesday.

Hadfield will stay aboard the space station along with flight engineers Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko until May. Expedition 35, which is currently a three-member crew, will become a six-member team once the Soyuz capsule carrying Flight Engineers Chris Cassidy, Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin is launched March 28.

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