Mt. Juliet native Barry ‘Butch’ Wilmore was one of three crew members who returned safely to Earth on Wednesday, March 11 after a 167-day mission on the International Space Station (ISS). The mission, Expedition 42, included hundreds of scientific experiments and several spacewalks to prepare the orbiting laboratory for future arrivals by U.S. commercial crew spacecraft.
Expedition 42 commander Barry Wilmore of NASA and flight engineers Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) touched down at approximately 9:07 p.m. CDT (8:07 a.m. March 12, Kazakh time) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.
During their time on station, the crew members participated in a variety of research focusing on the effects of microgravity on cells, Earth observation, physical science, and biological and molecular science. One of several key research focus areas during Expedition 42 was human health management for long-duration space travel, as NASA and Roscosmos prepare for two crew members to spend one full year aboard the space station.
The space station also serves as a test bed to demonstrate new technology. The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) arrived and was installed during Expedition 42, and already is providing data to improve scientists’ understanding of the structure and evolution of Earth’s atmosphere.
This may lead to enhancements to spacecraft launches, landings and communications systems; help guide future atmospheric investigations of Mars, Jupiter or other worlds; and help researchers model and predict climate changes on Earth.
The newly installed Electromagnetic Levitator will allow scientists to observe fundamental physical processes as liquid metals cool, potentially leading to lighter, higher-performing alloy, mixtures of two or more metals or a metal and another material, for use on Earth and in space.
During his time on the orbital complex, Wilmore ventured outside the space station with NASA astronaut Terry Virts on three spacewalks to prepare for new international docking adapters and future U.S. commercial crew spacecraft. Wilmore also completed a spacewalk in October with fellow NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman to replace a failed voltage regulator. Samokutyaev conducted one spacewalk during his time in space.
Wilmore previously flew on NASA’s space shuttle mission STS-129 as a shuttle pilot for the OV-104 orbiter Atlantis. The PRIDE covered that entire two-week mission in person from the Kennedy Space Center complex in Florida, in November of 2009. With the STS-129 mission and the Expedition 42 mission aboard the ISS, Wilmore has now spent a total of 178 days in space.
Expedition 43 currently is operating the station, with Virts in command. Flight engineers Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency), are continuing station research and operations until three new crewmates arrive. NASA’s Scott Kelly and Roscosmos’ Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka are scheduled to launch from Kazakhstan March 27. Kelly and Kornienko will embark on the first joint U.S. – Russian one-year mission, an important stepping stone on NASA’s journey to Mars.
Learn more about the International Space Station and its crews at: http://www.nasa.gov/station