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KOROLYOV, Moscow region, November 22 (Itar-Tass) – Russian manned spaceship Soyuz with three cosmonauts aboard undocked from the International Space Station at around 03:00 hours Moscow Standard Time Tuesday /23:00 hours GMT Monday/ and began a flight towards the Earth.
It is expected to land at 06:25 Moscow Standard Time /02:25 GMT/ some 90 kilometers to the north of the town of Arkalyk in central Kazakhstan.
Returning to the Earth are the Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, NASA astronaut Michael Fossum and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa.
Russia’s Mission Ground Control Center said shortly after the undocking all the three crewmembers felt well and the flight was progressing in a scheduled operation mode.
After the undocking, Sergei Volkov, the returning ship’s commander, spent five minutes testing the Soyuz’s digital control system.
“This is the second test flight of a Soyuz TMA ship of the so-called digital series,” a spokesman for the Mission Ground Control Center said.
“The Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin and NASA astronaut Daniel Burbank – members of ISS Expedition 30 – will stay awake until the time the Soyuz lands in the Kazakhstani steppe,” he said.
Shkaplerov and Ivanishin are spending the three and a half hours of Soyuz’s descent by preparing for and holding an experiment, in the course of which they study the impact of spaceship engine exhausts on the station. The experiment is codenamed Relaxation.
Its beginning coincided with the moment the Soyuz received an impulse for exiting from the orbit.
“During the undocking, the issuance of braking impulses and the entry of the upper layers of the atmosphere the products of engine fuel decay produce a diversity of chemical reactions with one another and with atomic oxygen,” the spokesman said.
“We’re studying the velocity of these reactions and their possible bad impact on solar batteries, viewing ports and the outer surface of the station,” he said.
Expedition 30 members are supposed to go to bed at 08:00 hours Moscow Standard Time. Their spare time will last twenty-six hours until 10:00 hours Wednesday.
After that, their daily routine aboard the ISS will resume.
Three more crewmembers – the Russian Oleg Kononenko, the American Don Pettit and the European Space Agency Astronaut Andre Kuipers are expected to launch to the ISS aboard a Soyuz family ship at the end of December.