RUSSIAN SPACEMEN, NASA ASTRONAUT SAFELY BROUGHT BACK TO EARTH
- Two Russian spacemen and a NASA astronaut touched down safely on Friday April 27 in the Kazakh steppe aboard a Soyuz capsule after a stay of almost six months aboard the International Space Station, AFP reported.
Seventeen Russian helicopters and jets patrolled the clear blue skies as the silver metal capsule parachuted gracefully through the air before bumping into a field of straw and early spring grass and rolling over gently onto its side.
It was the last touchdown performed by the older analogue version of the Soyuz capsule before it is replaced by a digital version. Spaceman Anton Shkaplerov and his Russian counterpart Anatoly Ivanishin and American Dan Burbank will be replaced by a new crew that is due to take off from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on May 15.
They will be joining Oleg Kononenko of Russia and Andre Kuipers of The Netherlands as well as NASA's Don Pettit on a mission that is also expected to last about six months.
The returning crew spent a few harrowing moments last month when they had to scramble inside the same Soyuz space craft and prepare for a possible forced evacuation because of incoming space debris. The incident was just the third of its kind in more than a decade of continuous habitation of the Russian-launched ISS - an orbiter that spins around Earth at an altitude of about 350 kilometres (220 miles).
The space junk ended up whizzing within 23 kilometres (14 miles) of the webbed station at a speed that would have made direct impact potentially catastrophic.
The team's return was also delayed by 42 days after one of the Soyuz capsules was found to heave a leak in its hermetic seal.
Russia's once-proud space programme has been beset by problems in the past year that have seen rockets fail to reach orbit and space exploration missions go awry. The problems are a particular worry for NASA, which retired its space shuttle programme last year. The Soyuz now provides the world's only manned link to the ISS.
- 1749 Death of Mkhitar Sebastatsee. He founded the Roman Catholic Mkhitarist Congregation. He was born in 1676.
- 1827 Russian forces lay seige to Fort Yerevan (currently the Armenian Winery building).
- 1849 Students create the "Ararat Union" in Paris.
- 1868 Death of Grigor Aghatonyan in Paris. He was born in 1823.
- 1915 Birth of Hovhannes Shiraz (poet). He died in 1984.
- 1919 In Constantinople, start of the trials of the leaders of the Young Turk government and the central committee members of the "Union and Progress" party.
- 1925 The Science and Art Institute of the Armenian SSR opens in Yerevan.
- 1930 Death of Archbishop Eghisheh Doorian, historian, literary figure, author, and Patriarch of Jerusalem.
- 1931 An earthquake (Richter Scale: 6.3) occurs in Zangezoor and affects a 100 000 sq.km. area. The Monastery of Tatev and other structures on the Tatev highlands and in the valley of the Vorotan River are destroyed.
- 1994 Israel officially condemned the Armenian Genocide as Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin proclaimed on the floor of the Knesset (the Israeli legislature), in answer to the claims of the Turkish Ambassador, that "It was not war. It was most certainly massacre and genocide, something the world must remember".