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Previous mission: Soyuz TMA-05M
Crew of Soyuz TMA-06M: Flight Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin (left), Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy (center) and NASA Flight Engineer Kevin Ford (right), poses at the hatchway of their spacecraft at the completion of their final prelaunch "fit check" dress rehearsal Oct. 18, 2012 in the Integration Facility at Site 254 in Baikonur. Credit: NASA
The Soyuz TMA-06M mission had a goal of delivering three members of the International Space Station crew, who represented the 33nd and 34rd long-duration expeditions on the orbiting outpost, where they were scheduled to remain until March 2013.
Preparations for launch
The spacecraft arrived to Baikonur in the middle of August 2012. In the first half of September, due to a failure of the onboard system discovered during testing in Baikonur, the mission was delayed from October 15 to October 23.
On Oct. 19, the payload section with the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft was transported from its processing building at Site 254 to the launch vehicle processing building at Site 112 for integration with the Soyuz FG rocket.
On Oct. 21, the launch vehicle with the spacecraft was rolled out from the assembly building No. 40 to the launch pad at Site 31.
Russia launched three members of the International Space Station crew, representing the 33nd and 34rd long-duration expeditions scheduled to remain on the orbiting outpost until March 2013.
Onboard the spacecraft are the Soyuz commander Oleg Novitskiy along with his NASA colleague Kevin Ford and another Russian cosmonaut Evgeny Tarelkin.
Following a smooth ascent along its standard trajectory, Soyuz TMA-06M reached orbit successfully, according to mission control.
Soyuz TMA-06M docked to the MIM2 Poisk module within the Russian segment of the International Space Station on Oct. 25, 2012, at 16:29 Moscow Time (8:28 EST, 7:28 Houston Time), just minutes earlier than planned time of 16:35:16 Moscow Time (7:35 a.m. Houston Time). The launch of Soyuz TMA-06M was the 129th mission within the ISS program and the 59th world's orbital launch attempt in 2012. The hatches between the transport spacecraft and the space station were opened at 19:05 Moscow Time.
Three out of six members of the International Space Station crew are preparing to return to Earth onboard their Soyuz spacecraft.
The return of Soyuz TMA-06M to Earth was originally scheduled for March 15, 2013, with the undocking at around 03:30 and the beginning of a braking maneuver at 06:05 Moscow Decree Time. It would be the second orbit of the spacecraft during the day.
The touchdown was planned 86 kilometers from the town of Arkalyk in Kazakhstan at 06:57 Moscow Decree Time. However on March 14, the Interfax news agency reported that the landing could be delayed by one or even two days due to bad weather at the landing site.
In case of the landing on March 16, the time of undocking would shift to 03:40 and the touchdown to 07:06 Moscow Summer Time.
Russian space officials then denied the report, saying that the decision on the landing date had not been made yet and the weather had been improving at the landing area. Nevertheless, around midnight Moscow Time during the night from March 14 to March 15, mission control informed the crew that the landing would be delayed for 24 hours. Fog and freezing rain in the area would prevent safe operation of rescue helicopters, officials said.
As usual, An-12 and An-26 aircraft, along with 14 Mi-8 helicopters and seven ground rescue vehicles were assembled to support the landing, the Russian aviation ministry reported.
Events of March 15
On March 15, the low-pressure weather front drifted east to allow safe landing under clear sky conditions. Russian space officials gave an official "go" for landing on March 15, 2013, around 3:30 p.m. Houston Time, as the vehicles were passing over Russia. The crew closed hatches between the station and the transport spacecraft at 3:38 p.m. Houston Time.
The undocking from the Poisk module on the ISS took place as scheduled at 6:43 p.m. Houston Time, as two spacecraft were flying over northeastern Mongolia. Around three minutes later, the Soyuz conducted a 15-second separation burn.
After separating from the station to a distance of about 12 kilometers, the Soyuz TMA-06M started a planned deorbit burn at 9:13 p.m. Houston Time, that lasted four minutes 44 seconds. At the same time, NASA TV reported low clouds in the landing area that grounded at least some of the recovery helicopters at their base in the town of Kustanai.
Following the reentry into the Earth atmosphere, the descent module was to open its parachute at 9:51 Houston Time and make a touchdown at 10:05 p.m. Houston Time on March 15, 2013, after 144 days in space.
The Russian mission control confirmed successful landing around seven minutes after the planned touchdown time and no images were immediately transmitted from the landing site. Overheard mission control and recovery team communications mentioned zero visibility at the landing site, preventing the location of the spacecraft. No aircraft were apparently able to visual monitor the spacecraft at the moment of touchdown.
Around 20 minutes after landing, a pair of helicopters finally landed near the descent module found safely on the ground in vertical position. The crew was reported in good shape, with temperatures outside around minus seven degrees C.
Soyuz TMA-06M crew:
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Last update: March 27, 2013
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A Soyuz-FG launch vehicle with the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft arrives to the launch pad at Site 31 on Oct. 21, 2012. Credit: Roskosmos
A Soyuz-FG launch vehicle with the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft shortly before launch from Site 31 on Oct. 23, 2012. Credit: NASA TV
A Soyuz-FG launch vehicle with Soyuz TMA-06M lifts off on Oct. 23, 2012. Credit: NASA TV
Soyuz TMA-06M docks to the station on Oct. 25, 2012. Credit: NASA TV
Crew of Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft shortly after landing on March 16, 2013. Credit: NASA TV