By Prarthana Mitra
After 168 days of spaceflight, three members of the International Space Station Expedition 55 crew returned to Earth on Sunday. The returnees included American astronaut Scott Tingle, Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, who safely landed at 6:39 PM at a space station in Kazakhstan.
Touchdown! @Anton_Astrey, @Astro_Kanai and @Astro_Maker are back on Earth after parachuting to a landing in Kazakhstan today at 8:39am ET (6:39pm Kazakh time). #AskNASA https://t.co/yuOTrZ4Jut pic.twitter.com/y6F5BYwAl8
— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) June 3, 2018
All you need to know about Expedition 55
Besides living and working in Earth’s lower orbit, astronauts Tingle and Kanai have taken separate spacewalks during their stay, to conduct crucial work on the Canadarm2 robotic arm. They have also participated in numerous educational events as part of NASA’s Year of Education on Station.
Earlier this year, Shkaplerov ventured on a record-setting spacewalk for 8 hours and 13 minutes, with fellow cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin to replace an electronics box for a communications antenna on the Zvezda service module. This was clocked as the longest spacewalk in Russian space program history.
This visit marks the first mission for both Tingle and Kanai. Shkaplerov, after this mission, has logged 532 days in space on three separate flights, placing him alongside Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka who holds the record for 878 cumulative days spent in space.
Why you should care
Earlier this year, NASA’s Scott Kelly who took part in the space organisation’s twin study, discovered on his return a 7% change in his genetic composition over the course of one year in outer space. Although evidence of structural changes has surfaced in several cases of space returnees, it is still mind-boggling to imagine spatial factors causing irreversible changes to human DNA.
NASA has always expressed interest in delving deeper into the science that goes behind such alterations, but only recently endeavoured to learn how extensive such bodily changes can be. The implications of the same could be huge especially in determining and proving the existence of life beyond the biosphere. Additionally, it would also enable space organisations to protect their astronauts from DNA decay, and develop technology to stymy such changes.
Even after six decades of spaceflight, the experience of seeing the earth from above or witnessing the solar ring remains an unsettling experience, and the volume of work being done to unravel the mysteries of space is breaking new grounds every day.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius