Returning with them was Russian Space Forces Test Cosmonaut Yuri Shargin, who had spent eight days aboard the orbiting complex conducting research.
After a flawless descent by the ISS Soyuz 8 spacecraft, Padalka, Fincke and Shargin landed on target in north-central Kazakhstan, about 43 miles (70 kilometers) northeast of the town of Arkalyk, at 7:36 p.m. CDT. Recovery forces arrived at the site within minutes of the touchdown.
Padalka and Fincke spent 187 days, 21 hours and 17 minutes in space. They launched on April 18, on the same Soyuz spacecraft that brought them home. For six months, the pair maintained systems and conducted scientific research onboard the Station.
Fincke's return also is his first opportunity to meet his four-month-old daughter, Tarali Paulina, born June 18 while he was in space. The crew's families are expected to greet them upon their arrival at Star City, Russia, a few hours after landing. Padalka and Fincke will remain in Star City for several weeks of post-flight debriefings and medical exams before returning to Houston in mid-November.
Among their accomplishments on the Station was an unprecedented spacewalking repair, using Russian spacesuits and gear to replace a U.S. circuit breaker, restoring power to a U.S. gyroscope. Fincke also performed some of the most complex U.S. spacesuit repairs ever accomplished in orbit, replacing water pumps in the suits' cooling systems, equipment not designed for in-flight repairs. They completed a total of four spacewalks, including sorties that prepared the Station for the arrival of a new European cargo ship next year.
Aboard the Station, the Expedition 10 crew, Commander and NASA Station Science Officer Leroy Chiao and Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov, are beginning a six-month mission that will include two spacewalks and preparations for the return of Space Shuttle flights. Expedition 10 is scheduled to return to Earth on April 25, 2005.
Chiao and Sharipov will have light duty for the next three days as they rest after completing a busy handover period. For the past week, they have been learning about Station operations from the two men who called the ship home since April. Padalka and Fincke briefed Chiao and Sharipov on day-to-day operations and gave them hands-on opportunities at Station maintenance: Sharipov joined Padalka in completing repairs to the Elektron oxygen-generating system, and Chiao helped Fincke with the maintenance on the U.S. spacesuits. During his time aboard, Shargin completed a program of scientific experiments.