NASA astronaut, crewmates return safely to Earth from International Space Station

Courtesy: NASA/Bill Ingalls

KAZAKHSTAN – After 173 days in space, NASA astronaut and Expedition 50 commander Shane Kimbrough, along with two Russian crewmates, returned safely to Earth Monday morning. Their Soyuz capsule landed southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan around 6:20 a.m. CDT (5:20 p.m. Kazakhstan time).

The Expedition 50 crew members worked on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the International Space Station. One of the many projects they worked on was the Microgravity Expanded Stem Cells investigation, which had crew members observe cell growth and other characteristics in microgravity. It’s hoped that the results from this investigation could lead to treatment of diseases and injury in space (which is essential for longer term missions, such as a journey to Mars) and also to help improve stem cell production for medical therapies here on Earth.

Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough. Courtesy: NASA

Kimbrough has now spent 189 days in space on two flights and ventured outside the space station for four spacewalks during his latest mission. He is succeeded by Expedition 51, led by NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson in command. Along with two other crewmates, one from the European Space Agency and another from Russia, the current three-person crew will operate the station until the arrival of two new crew members, currently scheduled to launch on April 20.

The International Space Station is a joint project among five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency). The American portion of the International Space Station is currently scheduled to be funded through 2024.