Encyclopedia Astronautica
2003.05.04 - International Space Station Status Report #03-21


The Expedition 6 crew touched down in northern Kazakhstan in its Soyuz spacecraft at 9:07 p.m. CDT Saturday, after an undocking from the International Space Station. The Soyuz landed well short of the predicted site and it took almost three hours for a search plane to find the capsule and report that all appeared well.

The Soyuz landed about 275 miles west and a little south of its predicted touchdown point. The aircraft found the capsule and established radio contact with the crew at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday. The plane's crew subsequently reported seeing Expedition 6 crewmembers outside the Soyuz, waving and apparently well.

The crew, Commander Ken Bowersox, Soyuz Commander Nikolai Budarin and NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit, spent about 51/2 months in space, all but two days of it on the station. The landing ended a mission that began with their launch on Nov. 23 and their docking to the orbiting laboratory two days later. It marked the first landing of an advanced Soyuz TMA spacecraft, and it was the first time U.S. astronauts have landed in any Soyuz capsule.

Expedition 7 Commander Yuri Malenchenko and NASA ISS Science Officer Ed Lu, who arrived at the station early last Monday, formally began their increment on the station with the departure of their predecessors. A change-of-command ceremony began at 1:15 p.m. Saturday. After farewells, hatches between the station and the Soyuz TMA-1 were closed at 2:38 p.m. Malenchenko and Lu will be aboard the orbiting laboratory for about six months.

The undocking procedure began right on time at 5:40 p.m. Saturday, with springs pushing the Soyuz away from the ISS three minutes later. At 5:46 p.m. a separation burn of Soyuz thrusters increased its speed as it moved away. Minutes later, the station began maneuvering itself from the undocking attitude back to the standard "duty attitude."

The 4-minute, 18-second deorbit burn began at 8:12 p.m. About 8:40 p.m. the orbital and instrumentation/propulsion modules separated from the crew's descent module, the only one of the three intended to return to Earth. Minutes later that module began to feel the effects of the upper atmosphere. About 8:52 p.m. the first of a series of parachutes deployed to slow the module's rate of descent and six small rocket engines fired just before touchdown to further slow the capsule.

Helicopters with ground support personnel had to refuel before flying to the Soyuz to retrieve the crew. The crew will fly today to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan before returning to Star City, the Russian space center near Moscow. There the crew will begin debriefings and physical rehabilitation. Bowersox and Pettit are scheduled to return to Johnson Space Center in a little over two weeks.

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