Astronaut Chris Cassidy returns to Earth with Russian crewmates

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy has returned to Earth after the completion of his third space mission. Cassidy spent 196 days living and working aboard the International Space Station. He successfully returned to Earth along with two Russian cosmonauts, Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin. The three crewmembers departed the ISS at 7:32 PM EDT on Wednesday.The Soyuz module the crew returned in successfully landed just south of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 10:54 PM EDT Wednesday, or 8:54 AM local time. Crew members underwent preliminary medical checks at the landing site and then split up to return home. Cassidy boarded a NASA aircraft to head back to Houston while his Russian crewmates headed to Star City, Russia.

Cassidy served as commander of Expedition 63 and, during his mission, welcomed the SpaceX Demo-2 crewmembers Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, both of NASA. The duo were the first astronauts to launch to the space station on an American spacecraft from American soil since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2011. Cassidy and Behnken completed four spacewalks together, spending a total of 23 hours and 37 minutes outside the space station upgrading batteries.

The final spacewalk was number 10 for both astronauts, making them two of four US astronauts to complete ten spacewalks. Cassidy has spent 378 days in space during his missions, putting him at the fifth most time spent in space among US astronauts. During his mission, Cassidy performed hundreds of experiments, including work on the Astrobee free-flying robots.

With the departure of Cassidy and his crewmates, Expedition 63 officially ended, and Expedition 64 officially began. Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov is station commander for Expedition 64. In November, Expedition 64 will welcome four astronauts as part of the SpaceX Crew-1 mission, the first long-duration mission to fly as part of the NASA Commercial Crew Program.