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ESA retrieves NASA astronauts in wake of hurricane Harvey
Soyuz MS-04 crew after landing. © NASA

ESA retrieves NASA astronauts in wake of hurricane Harvey

Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronauts Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson returned to Earth on 3rd September.

Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin (centre) and NASA astronauts Jack Fischer (right) and Peggy Whitson (left) returned to Earth on 3rd September after their stay on the International Space Station, landing in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

Whitson is returning after 288 days in space where she served as a member of the Expedition 50, 51 and 52 crews. Fischer and Yurchikhin spent 136 days in space.

With the 288 days Whitson spent in space on this mission, she holds the U.S. record for cumulative time in space — 665 days during three long-duration missions.

She has spent more time in orbit during a single spaceflight (288 days) than any other woman. Whitson also holds the records for most spacewalks and time spent spacewalking by a female astronaut. During her second mission, she became the first woman to command the space station, and during this mission, she became the first woman to command the station twice.

One of the consequences of hurricane Harvey was the delayed take-off for NASA’s G5 plane out of Houston. In order to cope with this delay and start with postflight science as soon as possible, ESA and NASA worked out an exceptional plan: an ESA plane retrieved the two NASA astronauts in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, and brought them back directly to Cologne, home of ESA’s astronaut centre.

NASA and ESA medical teams ensured as many research experiments as possible could be completed with this change of protocol. 

The returning astronauts left behind ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik and Roscosmos astronaut Sergei Ryazansky who will maintain the Space Station and continue running scientific experiments. Mission control centres including Johnson Space Center remain operational.

The next trio to visit are already gearing up for launch on 12th September. NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba will join Russian commander Alexander Misurkin in their Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft.

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