Late Saturday night, three astronauts landed safely in the Kazakhstan countryside after a 115-day mission aboard the International Space Station.
One of the safely returned astronauts was American Kate Rubins, the first person to sequence DNA in space.
Rubins, Russia’s Anatoly Ivanishin and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency landed southeast of Zhezkazgan in clear and chilly conditions just before 11:00 p.m. EDT.
“Landing has taken place!” Russian mission control announced once the landing craft had safely returned to Earth. Commentators on NASA TV pointed out that the Russian Soyuz craft had set down in an upright position.
Rubins and Onishi were both coming back from their first trip into space, while flight commander Ivanishinhad commenced preparations for his latest mission five years ago. Video from the landing location on NASA television showed Rubins beaming after she was raised out last from the Russian descent vehicle.
“Everybody is feeling wonderful,” Ivanishin told TV cameras in Russian after emerged first from the craft.
Rubins’ involvement in the mission created a lot of excitement after NASA released plans for the scientist to sequence DNA aboard the ISS. In August Rubins effectively sequenced specimens of mouse, virus and bacteria genetic material using a device known as MinION while Earth-based scientists concurrently sequenced identical specimens.
NASA said the sequencing investigation may help to spot potentially hazardous microbes aboard the ISS and identify health problems in space.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, left, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos, center, and astronaut Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency a few minutes after landing. (Credit: NASA)
Rubins was also the first woman aboard the ISS since Italian Samantha Cristoforetti came back to Earth in June 2015. American Peggy Whitson will join an all-male team at the orbiting research laboratory with French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy from the Baikonur cosmodrome November 17. The launch was recently delayed by 48 hours as Russian officials sought better docking conditions.
Whitson is NASA’s most skilled female astronaut and will take charge the ISS for the second time. She became the first female commander of the station back in 2007.
Space travel continues to be one of the few examples of international cooperation between Russia and the West that has not been damaged by the on-going Ukraine crisis.
Image credit: NASA
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