If, on your commute today, you find yourself stuck in traffic or that your train has ground to an untimely halt, take solace in the fact that things could be worse. That's because this morning three astronauts from the Expedition 43 crew are falling back to the Earth from a spot 250 miles away. Once they land Italy's Samantha Cristoforetti, Russia's Anton Shkaplerov, and the United States' Terry Virts will be back on solid ground for the first time in over 200 days.
NASA's coverage of the landing will pick up at 8:30AM, with gravity helping the Soyuz capsule muscle its way through the Earth's atmosphere at around 8:51AM. The craft is scheduled to touch down in Kazakhstan at 9:43AM.
The crew was originally supposed to return in May
The three astronauts were supposed to return in early May, but the failure of Russia's Progress 59 spacecraft mucked up the space station's schedule. The extra time wound up giving Cristoforetti three spaceflight records; upon landing later today, she will have completed the longest spaceflight by an ESA astronaut, the longest by an Italian astronaut, and the longest by a female astronaut. (It also means she got to spend a few extra weeks with the ISS astronauts' newest toy, the space-certified espresso machine.)
The crew piled into the capsule overnight, and NASA has already posted a video of the hugs goodbye, the hatch closing, and the undocking process from the ISS. The rest of Expedition 43 — the American Scott Kelly and Russia's Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka — will man the space station until the next crew arrives in July. And remember, Kelly and Kornienko have a long stay ahead of them; the two astronauts are less than three months in to their historic year-long stay aboard the ISS.