Expedition 59 Crew members return to Earth after 204 days in space

HOUSTON – Expedition 59 crew members from NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and Roscosmos returned home safely to Earth after 204 days in space at the ISS. 

Expedition 59 launch and landing

Three crew members of Expedition 59 returned to Earth after 204 days at the International Space Station, the world's orbiting laboratory in lower Earth orbit. The Soyuz MS-11 successfully detached from the ISS and returned to Earth, landing in Kazakhstan, Monday night (Tuesday morning local time there). 

The crew launched on Dec. 3, 2018, and arrived at the ISS six hours later. Since then, the crew has been contributing to hundreds of experiments involving biology, biotech and physical and earth sciences.


Anne McClain - NASA

Lt. Col. Anne McClain was selected by NASA in June 2013. She was born in Spokane, Washington, and earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical/aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Military Academy. McClain, a senior Army aviator, has more than 2,000 flight hours in 20 different aircraft. She is an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior pilot and instructor pilot, and a rated pilot in the C-12 Huron (King Air), UH-60 Blackhawk and UH-72 Lakota. McClain most recently served as flight engineer on the International Space Station for Expedition 58 and 59, according to NASA.

This was McClain's first time in space. McClain conducted two spacewalks totaling 13 hours and 8 minutes on her mission into space. The EVAs were to replace aging batteries on the ISS and she also worked on several lab experiments. 

McClain was selected in 2013 as one of eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class. Her Astronaut Candidate Training included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in International Space Station systems, spacewalks, robotics, physiological training, T-38 flight training and water and wilderness survival training. She completed astronaut candidate training in July 2015, and is now qualified for future assignment, according to NASA.

McClain is a decorated Army veteran with a Bronze Star, Air Medal with Valor, two Air Medals, two Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals, the Iraqi Campaign Medal with two Service Stars, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and three Overseas Service Ribbons. Medals include the Combat Action Badge, Senior Aviator Badge and Air Assault Badge.

David Saint-Jacques - CSA

David Saint-Jacques is a member of the Canadian Space Agency and broke the record for the longest Canadian astronaut mission in space. Born in Saint-Lambert, Quebec, Saint-Jacques is an engineer and astrophysicist. The crew member also has a commercial pilot license with multiengine and instrument ratings. He speaks French and English, and basic Russian, Spanish and Japanese.  

Saint-Jacques was selected in May 2009 by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and moved to Houston to be one of 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class. In 2011, he graduated from Astronaut Candidate Training, which included International Space Station (ISS) systems and procedures, spacewalks, robotics, T-38 flight training, field geology training, Russian language and wilderness summer, winter and water survival training, according to the CSA.

In May 2016, the CSA announced Saint-Jacques had been assigned to Expedition 58/59.  Saint-Jacques, also on his first space mission and only the sixth Canadian astronaut to perform a spacewalk, joined McClain on her second outing, which totaled 6 hours, 29 minutes, according to NASA.

Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko - Roscosmos

Oleg Kononenko is a veteran in space. He has flown to the International Space Station four times. He served as commander of Expedition 58 and 59 aboard the Soyuz MS-11. Kononenko has 736 days in orbit under his belt during his time at the ISS.

He was a flight engineer for Expedition 17 aboard Soyuz TMA-12, a flight engineer on Expedition 30 and commander of Expedition 31 aboard Soyuz TMA-03M. 

Kononenko, on his fourth mission, conducted two spacewalks totaling 13 hours and 46 minutes, bringing his career total to 32 hours and 13 minutes spread over five spacewalks., according to NASA.

Science in space

"They just really went after the task and did a great job, and made us all proud," said NASA astronaut Drew Feustel, who has flown to the ISS for Expeditions 55 and 56, serving as commander of 56.

The Expedition 59 crew contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science, including investigations into small devices that replicate the structure and function of human organs, editing DNA in space for the first time and recycling 3D-printed material, according to NASA.

McClain contributed to air monitoring experiments that will also help future missions.

"Airway monitoring won't only be useful in situations like the ISS and eventually the Artemis Gateway, but also when we go back to the moon, because as you know dust is one of the issues that we have," David Brady, NASA's Associate Program Scientist for the ISS, said.

Brady also mentioned research for regenerative medicine as well as microorganisms in space.

"My favorite quote by (McClain) is that every day we're doing something both technical and magical," Brady said.

Brady said a lot of the research will help NASA's mission to go to the moon and then to Mars.

What's next?

Each crew member will be monitored for health for the next 55 days. McClain and Saint-Jacques made their way back to Houston Tuesday night. Kononenko returned to Star City.

Expedition 60 will begin soon, with a resupply mission to the ISS planned for July.