The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft is seen shortly after it landed on November 19, 2012 with the Expedition 33 crew. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls.
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The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft carrying Expedition 33 Commander Suni Williams and Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Aki Hoshide landed in the steppe of Kazakhstan, and even though it was 7:56 a.m. Kazakhstan time (01:56 UTC Nov. 19, 8:56 p.m. EST on Nov. 18), it was still dark near the remote northern latitude town of Arkalyk (50°14’53.16″N). This was the first pre-dawn landing in darkness for a station crew since April 9, 2006, when Expedition 12 crew members returned. The overhead pictures from the scene have a surreal feel to them.
A problem with the Soyuz’ parachute – it deployed about 5 seconds later than planned – caused the crew to land several miles away from the planned landing site, but a Russian recovery team and NASA personnel reached the landing site by helicopter shortly afterward to assist the crew in getting out of the spacecraft, which landed on its side. Frigid temperatures greeted the crew when the hatch was opened; it was about -12 C (12 F), said NASA TV commentator Rob Navias.
Another overhead view of the Soyuz. Note the soot on the snow from the landing. Credit: Ria Novosti//Maxim Shipenkov. See a slideshow of images here.
The return of Williams, Hoshide and Malenchenko wraps up 127 days in space for the three since their launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on July 15, including 125 days spent aboard the International Space Station.
Screenshot from NASA TV of the post-landing activities.
Earlier the crew bid farewell to their fellow crewmates, NASA astronaut Kevin Ford and Russian cosmonauts Evgeny Tarelkin and Oleg Novitskiy, and closed the hatches between the spacecraft at 2:15 p.m. When the Soyuz undocked from the station’s Rassvet module at 5:26 p.m. it marked the end of Expedition 33 and the beginning of Expedition 34 under the command of Ford.
The Expedition 33 crew sit in chairs outside the Soyuz Capsule just minutes after they landed in a remote area outside the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls.
Three additional Expedition 34 flight engineers — NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield, and Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Roman Romanenko — are scheduled to launch from Baikonur Dec. 19 and dock to the station two days later for a five-month stay. Hadfield will become the first Canadian to command the station when Ford, Novitskiy and Tarelkin depart in March, marking the start of Expedition 35.
Here’s the video of the landing, although there is no actual footage of the Soyuz touching down, since it was dark and the spacecraft landed well away from the planned landing spot.