On July 1, three ISS crew members departed the space station. Expedition 31 Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers landed safely in Kazakhstan aboard their Soyuz TMA-03M capsule.
Their departure marks the end of Expedition 31 and the beginning of Expedition 32, commanded by cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. The remainder of the Expedition 32 complement – NASA’s Suni Williams, JAXA’s Aki Hoshide, and Roscosmos’ Yuri Malenchenko – are scheduled to launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard the Soyuz TMA-05M on July 14.
It was an eventful expedition most notably including the historic docking of the first commercial spacecraft to reach the space station. Both Pettit and Kuipers were active bloggers and photographers during their expedition. In addition to the scheduled scientific experiments that comprised the bulk of the astronauts’ time, Pettit also enjoyed making his own experiments which he shared through videos and blog posts. All three crewmembers are space veterans, ending this six month mission with record career spaceflight times. Kononenko now has 392 days under his belt from two ISS missions, Pettit had 370 days from two ISS missions and a shuttle flight, and Kuipers has 204 days in space from his two ISS missions.
On June 29, Pettit posted his final words from space – at least for this trip. “It is only my temporary home,” he said, ”and now it is time for me to venture back to my real home. For my generation, Earth is, and will remain, home. The technology for space travel is still in the process of development, and is not sufficiently mature to open this frontier to humanity. We are not prepared to call space our home—yet.”
Below, ISS crews bid farewell before the departure of Expedition 31: