NASA Astronaut Kjell Lindgren, astronaut Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos had returned to Earth on Friday, Dec. 11, after spending 141 days in the International Space Station.
Cosmonaut Kononenko has now spent an impressive and cumulative 533 days in space with three space missions under his belt. For Yui and Lindgren, however, the mission and experience was a first.
"They arrived in space like baby birds barely able to fly and now they soar home as eagles," tweeted NASA astronaut Scott Kelly. Kelly is still on the ISS until he finishes his one-year mission and returns to Earth in March.
The ISS is a test bed for new technologies in the field of biological, physical, biomedical and molecular science. While on board the ISS, the three astronauts participated in investigations that will enable breakthroughs in research and innovations in technology.
Growing Vegetables On The ISS
Lindgren and Yui both took part in the Veggie plant growth experiment in August.
For the first time, NASA astronauts grew fresh red romaine lettuce and tasted them after. This followed the farming footsteps of previous Russian cosmonauts who also ate leafy greens they cultivated.
NASA said developing the technology to yield produce on the ISS will provide future space pioneers with sustainable food, which will be crucial in the journey to Mars.
Together with Kelly, Lindgren ventured outside the ISS on two spacewalks that totaled to more than 15 hours.
First, they installed a thermal cover over the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a particle physics detector attached to the ISS since 2011. They also did maintenance for routing cables to prepare new docking ports for a new commercial crew spacecraft.
Second, the two successfully reconfigured the space station ammonia cooling system.
More To Come
On Tuesday, Dec. 15, three more astronauts for Expedition 46 are venturing to the ISS.
For a six-month stay, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Tim Peake will fly aboard the Soyuz TMA-19M to the station.
Peake is the first representative of Britain on the ISS. Astronaut Kelly is in command of the expedition.