NASA astronaut Anne McClain, veteran cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, and Canadian Space Agency record-holder David Saint-Jacques touched down on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 0247 GMT, NASA said.
The trio’s launch on Dec 3 was the first after a Soyuz rocket carrying Russia‘s Aleksey Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague failed in October just minutes after blast-off, forcing the pair to make an emergency landing.
RECORD-BREAKERS AND SPACE TOURISM
McClain, Kononenko and Saint-Jacques were optimistic ahead of their successful launch and remained upbeat throughout their time aboard the orbital lab which is seen as a rare example of cooperation between Russia and the West.
The launch was the first after a Soyuz rocket failed in October just minutes after blast-off as shown in this NASA photograph. (Photo: AFP/Bill Ingalls)
The record was helped along by the fact that the launch was moved forward to Dec 3 from Dec 20 for operational reasons – possibly as a confidence booster after the accident.
Koch, who was not part of Hague and Ovchinin’s aborted mission in October, will have her stay at the ISS extended to nearly 11 months, which would set a record for the longest spaceflight by a woman, NASA confirmed in April.
That record is currently held by Koch’s former NASA colleague Peggy Whitson, now retired, who spent 288 days aboard the ISS in 2016-17, NASA said.
But last year’s failed launch, multi-billion dollar corruption scandals at Roscosmos and the emergence of private sector competitors like Elon Musk’s SpaceX have combined to put into question Moscow’s future dominance.
NASA said earlier this month that it will be opening the ISS up to space tourists for the first time next year with 30-day visits expedited by SpaceX and Boeing expected to cost around US$58 million per person.
Italian-American multi-millionaire Dennis Tito (left) was the first space tourist, paying Russia around US$20 million for his eight-day trip to the ISS. He is shown here with crew members Talgat Musabayev and Yuri Baturin after their return. (Photo: AFP/Alexander Nemenov)