The crew of Expedition 40 is safely back on Earth after a five-and-a-half month stay aboard the International Space Station. Soyuz TMA-12M touched down in Kazahkstan this morning at 8:23 a.m. local time (2:23 UTC, 10:23 p.m. Wednesday EDT), carrying NASA astronaut Steve Swanson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev. The trio launched to the station in March, and served on Expeditions 39 and 40.
For the next two weeks, the ISS will operate with the three-person crew of Reid Wiseman, Maxim Suraev and Alexander Gerst. Suraev is currently in command of the station, which has switched to Expedition 41.
Expedition 40 landing highlight reel This NASA highlight reel shows Steve Swanson, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev boarding their Soyuz TMA-12M capsule and returning to Earth. NASA
The next scheduled crew launch is Sept. 25, when Soyuz TMA-14M is scheduled to lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazahkstan, carrying Barry Wilmore from NASA, and Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova from Roscosmos. Serova will be the first Russian woman to serve aboard the ISS, and just the fourth female cosmonaut. Her predecessor is Yelena Kondakova, who made two trips to Mir in 1994 and 1997.
Here are some pretty pictures from the landing: