Three radio amateurs who had been onboard the International Space Station (ISS) for a little more than 6 months landed safely back on Earth, touching down in Kazakhstan in a Soyuz transporter. Expedition 47 Commander Tim Kopra, KE5UDN; Flight Engineer Tim Peake, KG5BVI/GB1SS, and Yuri Malenchenko, RK3DUP, undocked from the space station early on July 18 (the evening of Friday, July 17, in US time zones) in a Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft commanded by Malenchenko, after spending 186 days in space since arriving at the ISS in December. Kopra now has 244 days in space on two flights, while Peake, on his first mission, spent 186 days. Wrapping up his sixth mission, Malenchenko now has logged 828 cumulative days in space, making him second on the all-time list behind Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, RN3DT.
As the Soyuz undocked from the station, ISS Expedition 48 officially began under the command of Jeff Williams, KD5TVQ. Williams and crewmates Oleg Skripochka, RN3FU, and Alexey Ovchinin will operate the station for 3 weeks until the arrival of the next crew increment. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, KG5FYJ; Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, and Takuya Onishi, KF5LKS, of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are set to launch on July 6 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
“The crew completed the in-flight portion of NASA human research studies in ocular health, cognition, salivary markers, and microbiome,” NASA said. “From the potential development of vaccines, to data that could be relevant in the treatment of patients suffering from ocular diseases, such as glaucoma, the research will help NASA prepare for human long-duration exploration while also benefiting people on Earth.”
The three crew members were on hand on the ISS for the April arrival of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), an expandable habitat technology demonstration. The BEAM was attached to the space station and expanded to its full size for analysis over the next 2 years.
While onboard the ISS, Kopra and Peake scored some milestones for the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program. On March 10, Kopra conducted the 1000th ARISS school group contact with students in North Dakota. Peake made use of Amateur Radio in his “Principia Mission” outreach, which aimed to directly engage students with communication technologies, inspiring them to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. During his time in space, Peake hosted 10 ARISS school group contacts, including the first to take advantage of the HamTV digital Amateur Radio television (DATV) system when he spoke with students on February 11 at a school in England. The DATV system in the Columbus module of the ISS allowed students at Royal Masonic School, home of GB1RSM, to see as well as listen, as Peake, operating as GB1SS, answered their questions about life in space.