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BY SPACEFLIGHT NOW

Follow the Expedition 11 crew's undocking from the International Space Station and return to Earth aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-6 spacecraft. Reload this page for the latest.

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VIDEO: LANDING TEAMS HELP CREW OUT OF THE CAPSULE PLAY
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VIDEO: DEPARTING CREW BOARDS THEIR SOYUZ CAPSULE PLAY
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YIESDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2005
0300 GMT (11:00 p.m. EDT Mon.)


Here is the post-landing status report from mission control:

After traveling 75 million miles during six months on the international space station, Expedition 11 Commander Sergei Krikalev and Flight Engineer John Phillips safely returned to Earth today.

American businessman Gregory Olsen accompanied them aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The Soyuz landed in north-central Kazakhstan, about 53 miles northeast of Arkalyk, at 9:09 p.m. EDT. Olsen spent eight days on the station under a commercial agreement with the Russian Federal Space Agency.

The crew's families will greet them at Star City near Moscow early tomorrow. Krikalev and Phillips will remain in Star City for post-flight debriefings before returning to Houston later this month. Krikalev and Phillips launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on April 14. They spent 179 days, 23 minutes in space. During their mission, they welcomed the Space Shuttle Discovery's crew in July and set important milestones.

In June, Phillips became the first American to give congressional testimony from space. He appeared by satellite before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.

On Aug. 16, Krikalev set the human record for time in space. He surpassed Cosmonaut Sergei Avdeyev's record of 747 days, 14 hours and 14 minutes. Krikalev is a veteran of six spaceflights, including two to the Russian space station Mir, two shuttle flights and the first international space station expedition. He spent 803 days, 9 hours and 39 minutes in orbit.

The new station crew, Expedition 12 Commander Bill McArthur and Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev, will have light duty for the next few days, as they rest from the handover. They will remain in orbit six months and perform at least two spacewalks, the first in early November.

0207 GMT (10:07 p.m. EDT Mon.)

A further update from the landing site indicates the Soyuz capsule actually did come to rest on its side.

Post-landing plans call for the crew to be flown from the site in helicopters within two hours of landing. They will be taken to the city of Kustanai for an initial welcoming ceremony. Then a Russian military transport plane will fly the crew to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, where their families will meet them.

0145 GMT (9:45 p.m. EDT Mon.)

All three members of the crew are out of the Soyuz and appear to be doing OK now.

0137 GMT (9:37 p.m. EDT Mon.)

"I feel great. I can't wait to walk around and eat some real food and take a shower," Olsen says.

0135 GMT (9:35 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Greg Olsen is enjoying a piece of fruit after exiting the spacecraft.

0128 GMT (9:28 p.m. EDT Mon.)

The crew members are now being pulled from the capsule as dawn begins to break over the landing site.

0121 GMT (9:21 p.m. EDT Mon.)

A medical tent will be set up near the capsule in which the crew can change out of its launch and entry suits. Russian technicians will open the module's hatch and begin to remove the crew, one by one. They will be seated in special reclining chairs near the capsule for initial medical tests and to provide an opportunity to begin readapting to Earth's gravity.

0120 GMT (9:20 p.m. EDT Mon.)

The landing point is 41 degrees North and 67 degrees East.

0119 GMT (9:19 p.m. EDT Mon.)

A recovery team flying aboard a convoy of Russian military helicopters have landed nearby Soyuz to begin assisting the crew out of the capsule. The spacecraft touched down and remained vertical, unlike past missions in which capsules have tipped over.

0117 GMT (9:17 p.m. EDT Mon.)

The Soyuz's nighttime re-entry below the International Space Station provided quite a sight for the Expedition 12 crew now living aboard the orbiting outpost.

"Thanks for the great fireworks show. We had a wonderful view," the space station's new commander, Bill McArthur, just radioed Houston.

0112 GMT (9:12 p.m. EDT Mon.)

The recovery forces report they have visual contact with the Soyuz and say the capsule has landed upright.

0110 GMT (9:10 p.m. EDT Mon.)

TOUCHDOWN CONFIRMED! The Russian Soyuz TMA-6 capsule has landed in north-central Kazakhstan, capping the six-month voyage of Expedition 11 commander Sergei Krikalev and flight engineer John Phillips aboard the International Space Station and the 10-day adventure of tourist Greg Olsen.

0109 GMT (9:09 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Standing by for confirmation from mission control of the Soyuz capsule's landing.

0108 GMT (9:08 p.m. EDT Mon.)

At an altitude of about 12 meters, cockpit displays will tell commander Sergei Krikalev to prepare for the soft landing engine firing. Just one meter above the surface, and just seconds before touchdown, the six solid propellant engines are fired in a final braking maneuver, enabling the Soyuz to land to complete its mission, settling down at a velocity of about 1.5 meters per second.

0105 GMT (9:05 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Mission control says the Soyuz is descending through an altitude of 3,000 meters now.

0101 GMT (9:01 p.m. EDT Mon.)

At an altitude of five kilometers, the module's heat shield is scheduled to be jettisoned. This is followed by the termination of the aerodynamic spin cycle and the dumping of any residual propellant from the Soyuz. Computers also will arm the module's seat shock absorbers in preparation for landing.

With the jettisoning of the capsule's heat shield, the Soyuz altimeter is exposed to the surface of the Earth. Using a reflector system, signals are bounced to the ground from the Soyuz and reflected back, providing the capsule's computers updated information on altitude and rate of descent.

0058 GMT (8:58 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Two-way communications between the recovery team and the Soyuz crew have been established.

0057 GMT (8:57 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Once the drogue chute is jettisoned, the main parachute to be deployed. It is connected to the Descent Module by two harnesses, covers an area of about 1,000 square meters and slows descent to 7.2 meters/second.

Initially, the Descent Module will hang underneath the main parachute at a 30-degree angle with respect to the horizon for aerodynamic stability, but the bottommost harness will be severed a few minutes before landing, allowing the Descent Module to hang vertically through touchdown.

0056 GMT (8:56 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Recovery forces continue to track the Soyuz. The first chute has been deployed.

0054 GMT (8:54 p.m. EDT Mon.)

In the next few seconds, the onboard computers will start a commanded sequence for deployment of the capsule's parachutes at an altitude of about 10 kilometers. Two "pilot" parachutes are unfurled first, extracting a 24-square-meter drogue parachute. Within 16 seconds, the craft's fall will slow from 230 meters per second to about 80 m/s.

The parachute deployment creates a gentle spin for the Soyuz as it dangles underneath the drogue chute, assisting in the capsule's stability in the final minutes before touchdown.

0053 GMT (8:53 p.m. EDT Mon.)

The crew reports all is going well aboard the Soyuz.

0053 GMT (8:53 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Recovery forces report they have spotted the Soyuz plasma trail streaking across the western night sky.

0052 GMT (8:52 p.m. EDT Mon.)

The crew should be feeling the period of maximum G-loads -- four or five times normal Earth gravity -- during entry.

0049 GMT (8:49 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Twenty minutes to landing. The Soyuz continues its fiery plunge into the atmosphere.

0046 GMT (8:46 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Entry Interface. The Soyuz is now hitting the upper fringes of the atmosphere at an altitude of 400,000 feet. The Expedition 11 crew members are beginning to feel the first tugs of Earth's gravity after six months in space.

The entry guidance by the spacecraft's onboard software package is scheduled to start in a couple of minutes.

0044 GMT (8:44 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Separation of the Soyuz modules has occurred. The three segments of the Soyuz TMA-6 spacecraft have jettisoned apart, allowing the crew-carrying Descent Module to safely ferry the three men back to Earth. The no-longer-needed Orbital Module and Instrumentation/Propulsion Module are designed to burn up in the atmosphere.

0039 GMT (8:39 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Time to touchdown is 30 minutes.

Just above the first traces of the Earth's atmosphere, computers will command the separation of the three modules of the Soyuz vehicle. With the crew strapped in to the Descent Module, the forward Orbital Module containing the docking mechanism and rendezvous antennas and the rear Instrumentation/Propulsion Module, which houses the engines and avionics, will pyrotechnically separate and burn up in the atmosphere.

The Descent Module's computers will orient the capsule with its ablative heat shield pointing forward to repel the buildup of heat as it plunges into the atmosphere. The crew will feel the first effects of gravity in six months at the point called Entry Interface, when the module is about 400,000 feet above the Earth, about three minutes after module separation.

0033 GMT (8:33 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Soyuz is crossing the equator over the central Atlantic and nearing Africa on its free fall toward the atmosphere.

In about 10 minutes, computer commands will fire explosives to separate the three Soyuz modules for atmospheric entry. The crew is strapped inside the Descent Module.

0030 GMT (8:30 p.m. EDT Mon.)

The first wave of recovery helicopters has taken off from the Kazakh town of Arkalyk -- the staging site for the landing forces. It is a clear, starry morning there with good visibility and a temperature of 30 degrees F.

0023 GMT (8:23 p.m. EDT Mon.)

BURN COMPLETE! The Soyuz capsule carrying Expedition 11 commander Sergei Krikalev, flight engineer John Phillips and space tourist Greg Olsen has performed its braking maneuver, committing the craft for the return to Earth. Touchdown in north-central Kazakhstan is expected about 46 minutes from now.

0021 GMT (8:21 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Now half-way through this braking maneuver that will slow Soyuz by 258 miles per hour to send the craft toward atmospheric re-entry.

0019 GMT (8:19 p.m. EDT Mon.)

BURN IGNITION! The Russian Soyuz TMA-6 spacecraft has commenced the four-minute deorbit burn. Engines on the capsule's aft-end are firing to brake from orbit for the plunge back to Earth.

The capsule is flying backward over the southern Atlantic Ocean, just east of South America, on a northeasterly trajectory bound for Africa and eventually Central Asia where landing is expected at 9:09 p.m. EDT in the heart of Kazakhstan.

0012 GMT (8:12 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Soyuz is now passing above the extreme southern part of South America. The deorbit burn is now just 7 minutes away.

MONDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2005
2349 GMT (7:49 p.m. EDT)


Now 30 minutes from ignition of the deorbit burn to bring the Soyuz back into the atmosphere. The spacecraft is flying over the equatorial Pacific Ocean on a southeasterly trajectory that will cross over the lower portion of South America before heading northeast above the Atlantic Ocean and Africa for re-entry.

2152 GMT (5:52 p.m. EDT)

The Soyuz spacecraft has fired its thrusters for about 8 seconds, providing an extra boost in velocity to increase the rate of separation between the capsule and station. Over the two-and-a-half hours, the two craft will drift apart before Soyuz ignites its engines to brake from orbit for re-entry. Landing in Kazakhstan is expected at 9:09 p.m. EDT tonight.

2149 GMT (5:49 p.m. EDT)

UNDOCKING! With a gentle push by springs, the Soyuz TMA-6 spacecraft just undocked from the International Space Station's Zarya control module while flying over East Asia.

The Russian capsule is bringing the Expedition 11 commander Sergei Krikalev and flight engineer John Phillips, along with space tourist Greg Olsen, back to Earth this evening. Expedition 11 spent six months living on the station, while Olsen visited for a week.

2147 GMT (5:47 p.m. EDT)

The headlight and television camera on the nose of Soyuz have been turned on.

2146 GMT (5:46 p.m. EDT)

The undocking command has been issued. The hooks and latches are opening to release the Soyuz capsule from the space station.

The station's steering jets are inhibited to prevent any movements during the undocking.

2144 GMT (5:44 p.m. EDT)

Russian mission control has determined the pressure between the orbital and the descent modules is acceptable, indicating the internal hatch has a good seal. Undocking is expected shortly, just a few minutes behind schedule.

2140 GMT (5:40 p.m. EDT)

The crew is still monitoring ressure readings between modules of the Soyuz with Russian flight controllers.

2135 GMT (5:35 p.m. EDT)

Commander Sergei Krikalev will undock the Soyuz manually -- instead of in automatic mode with the onboard computer in charge -- as a precautionary measure to conserve energy due to concerns with the capsule's backup battery. The manual mode reduces the amount of time the Soyuz is on internal power before undocking, NASA says.

2125 GMT (5:25 p.m. EDT)

Everything is set for undocking, just under 20 minutes from now. The crew has donned and pressurized the Sokol spacesuits. Latches on the station-side of the docking mechanism have been opened. Flight controllers are not reporting any problems are clocks tick down to the departure of Expedition 11 from the station.

1853 GMT (2:53 p.m. EDT)

The departing crew members have boarded the Soyuz spacecraft in preparation for today's undocking from the International Space Station. The hatchway between the capsule and the station's Zarya module was closed at 2:48 p.m. EDT.

Commander Sergei Krikalev will be taking the center seat in the Soyuz, flanked by flight engineer John Phillips in the left seat and tourist Greg Olsen in the right seat.

The undocking is coming up at 5:45 p.m. EDT.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2005

The Expedition 11 crew will bid farewell to the International Space Station's new residents and depart the complex for return to Earth on Monday, riding a Russian Soyuz capsule to landing in Kazakhstan.

Commander Sergei Krikalev and flight engineer John Phillips, along with space tourist Greg Olsen, will say their goodbyes to the station's new crew -- Expedition 12 commander Bill McArthur and flight engineer Valery Tokarev -- and then float into the Soyuz TMA-6 craft currently docked to the station's Zarya module.

The homeward-bound men will work together over the next couple of hours to power up the Soyuz, active the craft's systems, remove docking clamps, depressurize the vestibule between the capsule and station and perform other work to ready for undocking.

McArthur, Tokarev and Olsen launched to the station last week on Soyuz TMA-7. After the brief stay, Olsen is going home Monday while Expedition 12 is left behind for a half-year tour-of-duty on the outpost.

The command to begin opening hooks and latches firmly holding Soyuz to its Earth-facing docking port will be sent at 5:42 p.m. EDT (2142 GMT). Physical separation between the two craft occurs three minutes later as the capsule backs away at just one-tenth of a meter per second.

After moving about 20 meters from the station, the Soyuz engines will fire for eight seconds at 5:48 p.m. EDT (2148 GMT) to execute the so-called separation burn to propel the craft a substantial distance from the complex.

About two-and-a-half hours later, Soyuz will be 19 kilometers from the station. The capsule's engines will ignite for the four-minute, 19-second deorbit burn to brake from space. The onboard computers will initiate an engine firing at 8:18:39 p.m. EDT (0018:39 GMT) that slows the ship by 115.2 meters/sec, just enough to slip out of orbit for the return to Earth.

Just before reaching the top of the atmosphere, the Soyuz's three distinct modules will separate at 8:43:17 p.m. EDT (0043:17 GMT) under computer command. The crew will be located in the Descent Module, which is sandwiched between the forward Orbital Module containing the docking mechanism and the rear Instrumentation and Propulsion Module housing the engines and avionics.

The Descent Module orients itself to point the ablative heat shield in the direction of travel to protect the craft and crew from the intense plunge back to Earth. At 8:46:13 p.m. EDT (0046:13 GMT), the moment of Entry Interface occurs as the capsule hits the upper fringes of the atmosphere for the fiery re-entry.

During the fall to Earth, the Orbital Module and Instrumentation and Propulsion Module will burn up in the atmosphere.

Six minutes after Entry Interface, the crew will experience the period of maximum G-loads during entry as they feel the tug of Earth's gravity for the first time since launch.

At 8:54:40 p.m. EDT (0054:40 GMT), the onboard computers will start a commanded sequence for deployment of the capsule's parachutes at an altitude of about 10 kilometers. Two "pilot" parachutes are unfurled first, extracting a 24-square-meter drogue parachute. Within 16 seconds, the craft's fall will slow from 230 meters per second to about 80 m/s.

The parachute deployment creates a gentle spin for the Soyuz as it dangles underneath the drogue chute, assisting in the capsule's stability in the final minutes before touchdown.

The drogue chute will be jettisoned, allowing the main parachute to be deployed. It is connected to the Descent Module by two harnesses, covers an area of about 1,000 square meters and slows descent to 7.2 meters/second.

Initially, the Descent Module will hang underneath the main parachute at a 30-degree angle with respect to the horizon for aerodynamic stability, but the bottommost harness will be severed a few minutes before landing, allowing the Descent Module to hang vertically through touchdown.

At an altitude of just over 5 kilometers, the heat shield will be cast free. That is followed by dumping of any residual propellant from the Soyuz.

Once the heat shield is gone, the Soyuz altimeter is exposed to the surface of the Earth. Using a reflector system, signals are bounced to the ground from the Soyuz and reflected back, providing the capsule's computers updated information on altitude and rate of descent.

At an altitude of about 12 meters, cockpit displays will tell Krikalev to prepare for the soft landing engine firing. Just one meter above the surface, and just seconds before touchdown, the six solid propellant engines are fired in a final braking maneuver, enabling the Soyuz to land to complete its mission, settling down at a velocity of about 1.5 meters per second.

Touchdown is expected at 9:09:40 p.m. EDT (0109:40 GMT) on the steppes of north-central Kazakhstan, about 37 minutes before sunrise at the landing site. Expedition 11 concludes with a duration of 179 days and 23 minutes.

A group of Russian military helicopters carrying the recovery forces, including a U.S. flight surgeon and astronaut support personnel, should arrive soon after landing to help the crew exit the capsule.

Each crew member will be placed in special reclining chairs near the capsule for initial medical tests and begin readapting to Earth's gravity. They will be transferred into a portable medical tent erected near the touchdown point where the three men can remove their spacesuits.

Post-landing plans call for the crew to be flown from the site in helicopters within two hours of landing. They will be taken to the city of Kustanai for an initial welcoming ceremony. Then a Russian military transport plane will fly the crew to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, where their families will meet them.

Copyright 2005 SpaceflightNow.com, all rights reserved.


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