Yesterday, the Soyuz MS-13 capsule returned safely to the steppes of Kazakhstan, bringing back Luca Parmitano European Agency astronaut and travel companions: Christina Koch of NASA and Aleksandr Aleksandrovič Skvorcov of Roscosmos. Astronauts left in orbit are astronaut Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka. In Aprile, a new trio of astronauts will be joining the crewmembers.
Thus ends the Beyond mission of Luca, who made three spacewalks, dozens of experiments, various radio amateur contacts and media events during 201 days of the space. Since October 2 2019, Parmitano was also the first Italian to take on the position of Commander of the International Space Station.
For about three hours Parmitano, Koch and Skvorcov prepared for the detachment, putting on the Sokol spacesuits, attaching themselves to the seats and starting to apply the return procedures with the help of the Moscow control center. The separation command between Station and Soyuz was at 06.49, and the maneuver began physically one minute later. After a series of controlled ignitions designed to safely remove the Russian shuttle from the ISS, the crucial return maneuver called “deorbit burn” took place at 09.18 European times.
Under the control of an on-board computer, at 09.46 the three modules that make up the Soyuz separated, leaving the central part, the re-entry module, free to correctly orient the heat shield in the direction of motion to protect the capsule from the intense heat generated by friction with the layers of the atmosphere, gradually more and more dense, once the outer flaps of the atmosphere were touched, the sequence of events for the landing followed quite quickly. After the so-called re-entry interface which started at 09.49, the parachutes were opened at 09.58 and the Soyuz touchdown in the Kazake steppes near Zhezkazgan took place at 10.12.
As always following the landing of a Soyuz, the crewmembers are recovered from the capsule with the help of the staff of the rescue teams. Astronauts and cosmonauts are generally too weak to free themselves from the seats and independently climb out of the capsule, from a hatch which is also located on the upper part of the hull.
Knowing the landing area in advance (barring unforeseen circumstances), the rescuers are present in force, with almost 200 people, various ground vehicles and helicopters who are in a hurry to secure Soyuz. A small field hospital is set up on-site, where the three astronauts receive the first care and attention. Particularly delicate was the return of Christina Koch, who spent 340 days in space and conquered the world record of female permanence in the cosmos.
Luca was therefore extracted from the capsule by muscular rescuers, and after a few minutes spent sitting on a deck chair, under medical supervision and answering the first calls (generally by family members and ESA managers), he was transferred to the tents of the field hospital. All three astronauts will start their return journey back to their headquarters of belongings Luca Parmitano to the ESA EAC facility in Cologne, the headquarters of the ESA astronaut corps, Christina Koch to Nasa headquarters and Aleksandr Aleksandrovič Skvorcov of Roscosmos.