On March 13th NASA astronaut Kevin Ford handed over command of the ISS to CSA astronaut Chris Hadfield in preparation for the transition from Expedition 34 into Expedition 35 allowing Ford and his crew to prepare to depart the station on Friday.
The change of command ceremony took place aboard the orbiting science vessel on the evening of the 13th March 2013 ahead of the scheduled departure of Expedition 34 crew on 14th March 2013. The ceremony included Ford giving his thanks to all the people on Earth who prepared and supported his crew and the whole mission of increment 34, as it’s known internally.
Before handing over the “keys to the family car” he played the Canadian national anthem as a tribute to Canada and Chris Hadfield who becomes the first Canadian to take the commander role on the ISS and becoming the second international commander of ISS.
In a statement released by the CSA and Chris Hadfield he states “In 2013, the 50th year of Canada in space since the launch of our first satellite Alouette, this Canadian is now asked to command the world’s spaceship. It’s a first for our country, but is really just the culmination of a lot of other firsts. I stand on the shoulders of so many that have made this possible, and now take my turn to try and add to that solid foundation for the Canadians that follow.”, as well as paying tribute to the Canadian astronauts that came before him.
Hadfield goes on to say “It is vital that tomorrow’s generations have the confidence, tools and education, as well as the vision and drive, to continue our exploration and understanding of our place in the world, and our World’s place in the rest of the universe. It is a tremendous honour to assume command of the ISS. I will do my best to acquit myself well, accomplish the utmost as a crew for all the International Partners, and fully live and share the experience on behalf of so many around our world.”
While the ceremony was completed Expedition 35 did not officially start until the docking latches of the Expedition 34’s Soyuz TMA-06M came undone and the spacecraft had left the station.
On Thursday 14th after a day of preparations to leave the station the departure of Expedition 34 and their Soyuz was delayed 24 hours due to bad weather at their landing site in Kazakhstan The freezing cloud and fog kept ground recovery forces from being able to use their recovery helicopters to get to the landing site. Russian ground control called off the departure telling the crew to get their sleeping bags back out and to stop all departure activities as well as storing some experiment samples back in the stations freezers for the night.
On Friday 15th the weather at the landing site was clear and ground recovery forces were able to get airborne and to the landing site. At 2343 UTC on the 15th the Soyuz TMA-06M with crew of Expedition 34 that consisted of NASA’s Kevin Ford and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeni Tarelkin undocked from ISS, beginning their journey back to Earth with a planned landing at 0305 UTC on Saturday 16th March 2013.
Soyuz TMA-06M departing ISS on Friday 15th March
At 0213 UTC on the 16th March 2013 the Soyuz performed it’s deorbit burn, slowing the spacecraft by 286 miles per hour and setting it’s trajectory for the landing site. At the landing site low cloud had moved in causing some of the recovery helicopters to become grounded due to visibility, these crews swapped to ground vehicles to get to the landing site.
At approximately 0307 UTC touchdown occurred and the Soyuz was on the ground, landing perfectly on target and in the nominal orientation. In the past Soyuz decent craft have landing upside down or on their sides making recovery and egress from the capsule more of a challenge. The recovery forces moved into position, erecting a support structure to aid in the egress of the crew the from Soyuz decent module.
At 0348 UTC all three crew members were safely removed from their Soyuz and shortly after at 0353 UTC they were removed from the landing site on an expedited departure and skipping the medical tent activities that normally take place after landing. These events mark the end of the Expedition 34’s space bound mission after a very successful 144-day mission in space.
Featured Image: NASA TV
Soyuz Leaving the ISS: Chris Hadfield on Twitter
Expedition 34 Crew at Landing Site: NASA TV