Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft lands

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Soyuz TMA-11 mission patch

This morning, the Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft landed in Kazakhstan, with three cosmonauts aboard. Russian Yuri Malenchenko, and American Peggy Whitson were returning from the International Space Station, where they had spent six months as the Expedition 16 crew. South Korean Yi So-yeon, the first South Korean to fly in space, was also aboard the spacecraft, having spent eleven days in orbit. Landing was scheduled for 08:30 UTC, however due to an anomaly during re-entry, it occurred at 08:51, 21 minutes behind schedule. Owing to a communication outage, it took some time to confirm that the spacecraft was on the ground.

A controlled ballistic descent profile was used, which differs from the planned re-entry profile in that it is steeper. The command to switch to this profile was given by the on-board computer during re-entry, after an unspecified anomaly was detected. RSC Energia, the manufacturer of the Soyuz spacecraft stated that this profile is considered a nominal backup, and that it was too early to speculate what caused it. Landing occurred 475 kilometres short, to the west of the scheduled landing site. The same backup profile was used during the landing of the previous Soyuz mission, Soyuz TMA-10, last October.

All three crewmembers were reported to be in satisfactory health. During re-entry, there was an unusually long loss-of-signal, which caused concern for flight controllers, as well as the Expedition 17 crew of the ISS.