20 November 2012, 18:01

Expedition 33’s Soyuz TMA-05M lands safe and sound, or how toilets may cause problems in space

Expedition 33’s Soyuz TMA-05M lands safe and sound, or how toilets may cause problems in space

After more than 3 months on board the International Space Station (ISS), 3 space crew members from the Soyuz TMA-05M, Expedition 33 successfully landed on November 19 in the northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan. During their time in space, experiments, repairs, and spacewalks were done with due diligence. Though, during Expedition 33, there were a variety of challenges they all faced but were able to pull through with their experience in the field and by working as a team. Kelly O. Humphries who is chief of news at the NASA Johnson Space Center told the Voice of Russia about the difficulties with toilets, repairs, and experiments that astronauts faced at the ISS.

Upon arrival, a variety of repairs had to be executed and with the help of American astronaut Sunita Williams, Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko and Japanese Aerospace Exploration flight engineer Akihiko Hoshide they accomplished their most important missions. “The recently returned crew did have some difficulties. They conducted three spacewalks to repair some critical components on the outside of the station, and did some troubleshooting and repairs on one of the two toilet systems on the space station inside,” explained Kelly O. Humphries, News Chief at the NASA Johnson Space Center, to the Voice of Russia.

More than a month ago, ground experts figured out the pivotal issue with the toilets was the dose pump. This piece of the contraption, which shoots just the right amount of chemicals into the waste, is part of the Waste and Hygiene Compartment (WHC). The pump has since been replaced on one of the toilets and is now in normal working condition.

Not only have repairs been taken care of throughout this treacherous expedition, but these astronauts have also helped support over 140 experiments. Some of these experiments are continuous and are done during each expedition, such as deciphering how our bodies can withstand extended periods in space and how our bones are affected in the long run. Besides experimenting, daily exercise was an essential to ensure their muscles received an adequate amount of movement.

Following their arrival to Earth this past Sunday, the three space explorers were greeted with a warm welcome from the people of Kazakhstan at the airport in Kostanay. In a video put up by NASA, they were each presented with a bouquet of flowers, a traditional Kazakhstan costume and sweets from Kostanay. Also, on behalf of the aviation department three medium-sized blue matroshkas from the Russian Federation adorning the trio’s faces were presented to them.

For now, the next expedition is right around the corner. “Expedition 34 is currently on the International Space Station, a crew of three led by NASA astronaut Kevin Ford. They will be joined by three more crew members, who will launch on a Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on December 19,” said Humphries. In hopes that each expedition will lead to a greater understanding and discovery about the universe, the astronauts who recently landed have given a substantial amount of support to the others who are still at the ISS.

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