The longest mission in European space history, EUROMIR 94, came to an end today with the successful landing of ESA astronaut Ulf Merbold aboard the Soyuz TM-19 spacecraft. The capsule touched down in Kazakhstan at 12h18 CET. Also onboard were Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Kazakh Talgat Musabyev.
Merbold was launched into space aboard Soyuz TM-20 on 3 October and arrived at the space station two days later. During the month-long mission he has taken numerous biological samples which will give European scientists a new insight into the affects of the space environment on the human body. He also conducted technological experiments that will help ESA develop new equipment for space missions and took hundreds of photographs of the Earth's surface.
Merbold, Malenchenko and Musabyev bid farewell to their colleagues aboard the space station and undocked earlier today. The hour-long descent through the atmosphere began with a firing of the Soyuz engine to slow the spacecraft. The craft endured extreme temperatures as it entered the atmosphere before landing under parachutes. Merbold and the cosmonauts are reported to be well after their mission. Scientists in Europe are eagerly waiting to study the biological samples returned aboard the capsule.
EUROMIR 94 was the first of two ESA manned missions with the Russians. The next, scheduled for August 1995, will be even more ambitious, lasting 135 days and including the first spacewalk by an ESA astronaut. Christer Fuglesang and Thomas Reiter are currently training for that flight.