The Soyuz TMA-16M in Kazakhstan, shortly after landing. Left to right: Gennady Padalka, Andreas Mogensen, Aidyn Aimbetov.
Yesterday's return to Earth began when the hatches between the station and Soyuz TMA-16M were closed at 2:17 p.m. EDT (18:17 UTC). The entire nine-person crew posed for photographs and video before Padalka, Mogensen and Aimbetov left:
Right on schedule, undocking occurred as the station crossed over Eastern Mongolia at 5:29 p.m. The Soyuz quickly became a speck against the blue-and-white backdrop of Earth, and Kelly captured the scene with a few photographs:
Scott Kelly / NASA
Soyuz TMA-16M departure shot 1
Scott Kelly / NASA
Soyuz TMA-16M departure shot 2
With the departure of the spacecraft from the station's aft Zvezda port, the current vehicle roster is:
Soyuz TMA-17M: Rassvet nadir port
Soyuz TMA-18M: Poisk nadir port
Progress M-28M: Pirs nadir port
HTV-5: Harmony nadir port
Station vehicle configuration, Sept. 11, 2015
The Soyuz slammed into the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere at about 8:30 p.m. Scott Kelly was again ready with his camera, and captured the vehicle's plasma trail as it blazed toward the ground:
Landing under the vehicle's reddish-orange-and-white striped parachutes occurred right on schedule at 8:51 p.m., when the Soyuz fired its retro-rockets to bring it in for touchdown:
ESA / Stephane Corvaja
Soyuz TMA-16M landing
Soyuz TMA-16M fires its retro-rockets just before the moment of touchdown in Kazakhstan.
The station's crew roster will remain at six until December, when Tim Kopra, Tim Peake and Yuri Malenchenko arrive to bring the laboratory's complement back to nine. Expedition 45's Kjell Lindgren, Kimiya Yui and Oleg Kononenko are scheduled to depart shortly thereafter.
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