The Expedition 23 crew from the International Space Station landed safely in their Soyuz-17 spacecraft, concluding their five-and-a-half-month stay in space. Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineers T.J. Creamer and Soichi Noguchi were welcomed by sunshine on Wednesday morning in Kazakhstan (11:25 pm EDT Tuesday). This crew may well be remembered as the ‘Twitter Crew’: Creamer posted the first “live” Tweet from space on Twitter from the now functioning internet on the ISS, which he helped to get up and running. Noguchi’s use of Twitter to post hundreds of images from space documented and shared his experiences in space like no previous astronaut, as he garnered over 250,000 Twitter “followers,” and his images were featured on many blogs and news sites.
Russian recovery teams and officials were on hand to help the crew exit the Soyuz vehicle and adjust to gravity after 163 days in space. Kotov will return to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, outside of Moscow. NASA astronaut Creamer and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Noguchi will return to Houston on Wednesday.
The station is occupied by Expedition 24 Commander Alexander Skvortskov, who took command at 5 p.m. Monday, NASA Flight Engineer Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Russian Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko, who arrived April 4.
A new trio of Expedition 24 flight engineers, Douglas Wheelock, Shannon Walker and Fyodor Yurchickhin, will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 4:35 p.m. on June 15 (3:35 a.m. June 16 in Baikonur). They will join the crew when hatches between their Soyuz and the station are opened at 8:34 p.m. on June 17 (2:34 a.m. June 18 in Moscow).