ISS Expedition 32 Russian Commander Gennady Padalka, Russian Flight Engineer Sergei Revin, and NASA Flight Engineer Joe Acaba safely landed in their Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft on the steppe of Kazakhstan on Monday September 17, 2012, at 2:53 a.m. UTC (8:53 a.m. local time), as officially recorded by the Russian Federal Space Agency. Returning from their trip to the International Space Station which began four months earlier on May 17, 2012, they completed a total of 125 days in space and a 123 day mission aboard the ISS.
Padalka ceremonially handed over control of the space station to Expedition 33 Commander and NASA astronaut Sunita Williams in the Destiny laboratory on Saturday September 15 during the traditional Change-of-Command Ceremony, NASA reported. Williams served a first mission in space in 2007 when she was a flight engineer as part of Expeditions 14 and 15. As of September 5, 2012, she holds the record for the longest space flight time (195 days, not counting her current mission) and the record for the number of spacewalks (6 EVAs, 44 minutes) among female space travelers. Williams is also the second woman to achieve the feat of becoming ISS commander.
Undocking from the ISS on Sunday September 16 at 11:09 p.m. UTC, the Soyuz carrying the crewmates fired its orbital engines for the last time Monday September 17 at 1:56 a.m. UTC, 57 minutes before landing. The spacecraft then separated and the descent module entered the atmosphere. It deployed its parachutes and softened its touchdown by firing its landing engines just a few feet above the ground, thus completing a 3 hour and 44 minute trip.
The remaining crew aboard the ISS is composed of Commander Williams, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. They will be joined by NASA astronaut Kevin A. Ford and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin on October 23, 2012 arriving aboard the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft.
Watch the final moments of the descent below: