Three astronauts are preparing to leave the International Space Station tonight (Sept. 16), returning to Earth after a four-month stay aboard the huge orbiting lab.
A Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin is slated to undock from the space station at 7:09 p.m. EDT (2309 GMT) tonight and land in the steppes of Kazakhstan nearly four hours later, at 10:53 p.m. EDT (0253 GMT Monday).
The astronauts' departure will bring the space station's Expedition 32 to a close. Padalka commands the expedition, while Acaba and Revin serve as flight engineers. Padalka will hand the orbiting lab's reins over to NASA's Sunita Williams, commander of the new Expedition 33.
The Soyuz TMA-04M carrying Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Sergei Revin landed safely in Kazakhstan at 10:53 p.m. EDT Sunday (8:53 a.m. Kazakhstan time Monday). Expedition 32 officially ended when the trio undocked at 7:09 p.m. from the Poisk module. They began their mission when they arrived at the International Space Station May 17 for a total of 123 days on the orbital laboratory.
Joe Acaba is carried by personnel to a medical tent for a checkup after landing. Credit: NASA TV
Gennady Padalka rests outside the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft moments after landing. Credit: NASA TV
Expedition 32 Landing
The Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 32 Commander Gennady Padalka of Russia, NASA Flight Engineer Joe Acaba and Russian Flight Engineer Sergie Revin in a remote area near the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, on Monday, September 17, 2012. Padalka, Acaba and Revin returned from five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 31 and 32 crews.
Photo Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi