NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, along with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, returned to Earth on Saturday, following six months living and working aboard the International Space Station.
The crew departed the station in their Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft at 9:34 p.m. EDT Friday and landed safely under parachutes at 12:55 a.m. (10:55 a.m. Kazakhstan time) Saturday southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. It was the second spaceflight for Rubins and Ryzhikov and the first for Kud-Sverchkov.
Rubins will return to her home in Houston, and Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov will return to their homes and training base in Star City, Russia.
Rubins will discuss her 185-day mission in a news conference at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, April 21. The news conference from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.
During their mission, Rubins and her crewmates welcomed NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts aboard the first long-duration commercial crew spaceflight. Rubins completed two spacewalks alongside NASA astronaut Victor Glover and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, bringing her career total to four spacewalks. She returns to Earth with a total of 300 days across her two flights, the fourth most days in space by a U.S. female astronaut.
More than four years ago, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins became the first person to sequence DNA in space. This past week, she moved space science forward with another crucial milestone for microbiology aboard the International Space Station. The research team took a moment to recognize Rubins’ spot in scientific history. Credit: NASA Johnson
Rubins spent hundreds of hours working on new space station experiments, building on investigations she conducted during her first mission, including heart research and multiple microbiology studies. She advanced her work in DNA sequencing (see video above), which could allow astronauts to diagnose an illness in space or identify microbes growing at the space station. Rubins collected hundreds of microbial samples at different locations within the space station for the 3DMM study to construct a 3D map of bacteria and bacterial products throughout the station. By advancing understanding of the orbiting laboratory’s microbiome, this work helps identify potential risks and supports developing countermeasures to mitigate those risks.
Rubins also worked on the Cardinal Heart experiment, which studies how changes in gravity affect cardiovascular cells at the cellular and tissue levels. Results could provide new understanding of heart problems on Earth, help identify new treatments, and support development of screening measures to predict cardiovascular risk prior to spaceflight.
Rubins, Ryzhikov, and Kud-Sverchkov’s mission began October 14, 2020, when their spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Their spacecraft docked to the Earth-facing port of the Rassvet module after a two-orbit, three-hour flight.
On March 19, the trio donned their spacesuits and boarded the Soyuz MS-17 for a port relocation maneuver, moving the spacecraft from the Rassvet module to the space-facing port of the Poisk module. The relocation allowed the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft and its crew to dock to the Rassvet module upon their arrival on April 9.
When Rubins, Ryzhikov, and Kud-Sverchkov departed the station, Expedition 65 officially began with NASA astronaut Shannon Walker serving as station commander, marking the first time that a Houston native has done so. Walker will lead the crew until the departure of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Resilience on Wednesday, April 28, when command of the station will be handed over to JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide.
On Thursday, April 22, the Expedition 65 crew will grow to 11 with the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2, composed of NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and JAXA’s Hoshide. Crew-2 will be the second long-duration mission to fly as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, continuing to provide the capability of regularly launching humans from American soil.
In November 2020, the International Space Station surpassed a 20-year milestone of continuous human presence, providing opportunities for unique technological demonstrations and research that help prepare for long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars while also improving life on Earth. To date, 243 people from 19 countries have visited the orbiting laboratory that has hosted nearly 3,000 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas.