Skip to main content

After 143 days in space, astronauts set to return

By Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 9:25 AM EDT, Thu March 14, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NASA: The trip back to Earth should take less than three and a half hours
  • One American and two Russians will land just before midnight
  • Russian Soyuz space modules have proven very reliable
  • It is the standard transportation mode to the ISS after a deadly space shuttle crash

(CNN) -- Nearly five months of cramped living in zero gravity will come to an end Thursday for one American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station.

Their Soyuz capsule is set to undock at 8:30 p.m. ET, and land less than three and a half hours later in Kazakhstan.

Soyuz modules are vital to the Russian space program.

They are launched into space as capsules atop a rocket, and are capable of landing on land, not requiring a body of water to splash down in.

Kevin Ford on space mission with Russia
Three return from space station

A Soyuz carried the first ever crew to the ISS in November 2000, according to NASA. One is docked there at all times, in case the crew needs to leave in an emergency.

It became the standard mode of transportation to the station after the deadly 2003 Columbia space shuttle accident.

The modern version, the Soyuz TMA, is made of three parts. Two of them jettison then burn upon reentry into Earth's atmosphere, according to NASA. Only the Descent Module will land on Earth, carrying Commander Kevin Ford of NASA, Russian Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy and Russian Flight Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin.

NASA TV will broadcast the undocking and landing live.

The undocking of the Soyuz will mark the beginning of the 35th ISS mission, which awaits the arrival of two more Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut in two weeks.

The journey up to the station takes longer than the return trip to Earth, NASA said. The Soyuz needs a total of two days to catch up with the ISS in its orbit.

More space and science news on CNN's Light Years blog

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Hamas' tactics have changed -- now the group is using commando-like tactics, says CNN's Ben Wedeman.
updated 11:40 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
updated 5:51 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
updated 8:21 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
updated 7:36 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Former President Bill Clinton acknowledges he got "very close" to helping achieve peace in the Middle East.
updated 2:21 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Inspirational, creepy or just weird? CNN meets the 51-year-old man who dresses like a schoolgirl.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material.
updated 7:12 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Yoga, meditation and watching a snake eat a frog alive: these are some of the experiences to be had at this Himalayan yoga retreat.
updated 7:52 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
The world's largest flying aquatic insect, with huge, nightmarish pincers, has been discovered in China's Sichuan province, experts say.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT