After a flawless descent by the ISS Soyuz 9 spacecraft, Chiao, Sharipov and Vittori landed on target in north-central Kazakhstan, about 53 miles (85 kilometers) northeast of Arkalyk, at 5:08 p.m. CDT. Recovery forces arrived at the site within minutes of the touchdown. The area was saturated from recent rains and melting winter snow, so the first members of the recovery team to reach the scene decided to fly the crew to Arkalyk to meet with remaining members of the recovery team.
The crew's friends and families are expected to greet them upon their arrival at Star City, Russia, about eight hours after landing. Chiao and Sharipov will remain in Star City for a few weeks of post-flight debriefings and medical exams before returning to Houston in mid-May.
Chiao and Sharipov spent 192 days, 19 hours and 2 minutes in space. They launched on Oct. 13, on the same Soyuz spacecraft that brought them home. For six months, the pair maintained systems and conducted scientific research onboard the Station.
Among their accomplishments on the Station was replacing critical hardware in the Joint Quest Airlock, repairing U.S. spacesuits, submitting a scientific research paper on ultrasound use in space and voting for the first time in an American Presidential election from space. They completed two spacewalks, including experiment installation and tasks that prepared the Station for the arrival of a new European cargo ship next year.
Aboard the Station, the Expedition 11 crew, Commander Sergei Krikalev and Flight Engineer and NASA Station Science Officer John Phillips, are beginning a six-month mission that will include the resumption of Space Shuttle flights and two spacewalks from the Station. Expedition 11 is scheduled to return to Earth on Oct. 7, 2005.
Krikalev and Phillips 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 October. Chiao and Sharipov briefed Krikalev and Phillips on day-to-day operations and gave them hands-on opportunities at Station maintenance: Chiao and Phillips restored functionality of the Quest for future spacewalks and practiced operating the Canadarm2 robotic arm.