Astronaut trio to return after six months on International Space Station

Three astronauts will return to Earth next week, capping off a six-month stay on the International Space Station.

The members of ISS Expedition 40, including NASA Commander Steve Swanson and Russian cosmonauts and flight engineers, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev, will land in Kazakhstan on Sept. 10, NASA officials said in a press release.

The parachute-assisted landing will happen on a landscape similar to the US’s Great Plains region.

The trio spent six months doing maintenance on the orbiting laboratory, collecting data and conducting experiments in hopes of advancing technologies from weather forecasting to human medicine, according to the expedition’s mission.

Crew members also performed in-flight experiments, including evaluating the XSENS ForceShoe system as a possible way to measure the impact of exercise on specific joints in the body. The data collected will be used to shape exercise regimens created for astronauts to help stave off bone and muscle mass loss during missions. It can also be used to create exercise routines for people who have been restricted from exercise due to age, injury or other factors.

When living in space, astronauts must maintain a consistent exercise routine to avoid muscle atrophy. Studies have shown that microgravity causes astronauts to experience up to a 20 percent loss of muscle mass on spaceflights lasting five to 11 days, NASA said.

To exercise, astronauts do strength training with Advanced Resistive Exercise Devices (AREDs), which simulate the experience of lifting weights on Earth and allows astronauts to do squats, bench and shoulder presses in space.

Cycle ergometers and treadmills on the spacecraft also allow astronauts to do leg exercises and work on cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance.

Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft, headed for the International Space Station, on Mar. 25.

The spacecraft’s landing will be broadcast online by NASA Television from 9:15 p.m. to 11 p.m. (EST) on Sept. 10.