MOSCOW, November 19 (Itar-Tass) — Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, American astronaut Sunita Williams, and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, who have worked in orbit for more than 126 days, transferred to the spaceship Soyuz TMA-05M, which is docked with the International Space Station (ISS), and battered the hatches down on Sunday night before returning to Earth, an official at the Mission Control Center (MCC) has told Itar-Tass.
Prior to transferring to the returning spaceship, the departing team wished good luck to Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky, Yevgeny Tarelkin, and NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, who remain aboard the ISS until December 19 to "keep an eye" on the Station. Next spaceship, the Soyuz TMA-07M is to arrive at the ISS Dec 19 to bring a crew, consisting of Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, Canadian astronaut Thomas Mashburn, and American astronaut Chris Hadfiled, to orbit.
"Within the time remaining until undocking, Malenchenko, Williams, and Hoshide must check the operation of the onboard systems and documentation, don spacesuits inside the descent module of the Soyuz, and take up their seats, awaiting a command to undock from the Station," the MCC official pointed out.
According to plan, the spaceship is to separate from the ISS at 02:23, Moscow time, in an automatic mode. Following the spaceship's separation from the Russian module Rassvet (dawn) (MIM-1), crew commander Malenchenko is to steer the Soyuz away from the Station to a distance of 180-200 km and then direct it onto a descent path.
For three hours, an automatic programme will be tracking the Soyuz along its way to the planned landing site, which is located approximately 85 km northeast of the Kazakhstani city of Alkalyk.
About 50 minutes before landing, the spaceship's motor will run for deceleration. In result, the spaceship will depart from the flight path and start a controlled descent. The spaceship's parachute is to open at an altitude of about 10.7 km. Landing is scheduled for 05:53, Moscow time.