US, Russian, Belarus ISS colleagues return to Earth

Published April 7, 2024
(From left) Nasa astronaut Loral O’Hara, Oleg Novitskiy of Russia and Marina Vasilevskaya of Belarus inside the Soyuz MS-24 spacecraft after landing in a 
remote area near Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.—AFP
(From left) Nasa astronaut Loral O’Hara, Oleg Novitskiy of Russia and Marina Vasilevskaya of Belarus inside the Soyuz MS-24 spacecraft after landing in a remote area near Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.—AFP

MOSCOW: A Nasa astronaut, a Russian cosmonaut and Belarus’s first ever space traveller on Saturday returned to Earth safely after a fortnight aboard the International Space Station, Russia’s Roscosmos agency reported.

“Today, at 10:17am Moscow time (0717 GMT), the descent vehicle of Sozuz MS-24 manned spacecraft landed near the Kazakh city of Zhezkazgan,” Roscosmos reported. “The (vessel’s) deorbit and its descent to Earth went off normally,” the agency added.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky and the first ever Belarusian cosmonaut, Marina Vassilevskaya, “spent 14 days in orbit”, while American astronaut Loral O’Hara completed a 204-day mission. For Vassilevskaya and O’Hara it was their first ever stint on the ISS.

In a statement, Belarus President Alex­ander Lukashenko congratulated the crew for the safe return from their mission.

The spacecraft took off from the Baikonur space port in Kazakhstan on March 23 after a two-day delay following a hitch in pre-launch preparations — a temporary but high-profile setback for Russia’s space programme that has been hit by financial problems, scandal, corruption and failure. One recent setback was the loss of the robotic Luna-25 spacecraft in a crash on the Moon last August.

Russian-Western space cooperation has been hit by Russia’s assault on Ukraine, which began in February 2022, and the international sanctions that followed.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2024

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