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Last updated: August 8, 2015

Astronauts return from the I.S.S. after 5 month mission
Posted: 11 September 2014
exp40 NASA photo
Above: Planet Earth as photographed by ESA Astronaut Alexander Gerst from ISS in November 2014. Expedition 40 crew returns to Earth from the ISS on Sunday November 9th, 2014.

While it was still Wednesday evening in California, a Soyuz capsule carrying 3 astronauts parachuted down from the sky early Thursday morning in Kazakhstan. According to Wikipedia’s Soyuz (spacecraft) page, there are many different versions of spacecraft with that name and there is at least one Soyuz spacecraft docked to the International Space Station at all times “for use as an escape craft in the event of an emergency.”1

Three astronauts who had been on the International Space Station since March of this year have returned to Earth on September 10th after 5 and ½ months in space aboard the International Space Station. Russian crewman Artemiev and Svortsov and NASA astronaut Steven Swanson were the returning astronauts who had also journeyed to the ISS together in March. Since they have returned to Earth's surface, there are now only 3 astronauts in space, including an American, a German, and a Russian. A Russian woman, Yelena Serova, will be traveling to the International Space Station on September 25th on a Soyuz capsule. Russia charges the U.S. $76 million per seat for a NASA astronaut to ride up to the International Space Station on a Soyuz capsule, said Elon Musk in a videotaped interview at Space X Dragon V2 public reveal at Space X's Hawthorne, California headquarters on May 29th, 2014.

History of the International Space Station
The International Space Station was originally designed by Russia to be like a “space hotel” to generate revenue for their space agency. The original plan for the International Space Station was to offer to send wealthy individuals safely into space for a 10-day experience to be the first tourists in space.  As reported in an article from the website Space Today .org,

“After the collapse of the old Soviet Union, the Russian space agency was strapped for hard cash to pay its bills. To raise funds, it decided to send individual persons with only limited training to space in return for millions of dollars. The hotel in space where tourists would stay for a few days would be the International Space Station (ISS) 250 miles about Earth.”2

"Russia charges the U.S. $76 million per seat."

- Elon Musk, May 29th 2014, referring to NASA astronauts riding up to the International Space Station on a Soyuz capsule. Besides co-founding PayPal and founding Tesla Motors, Musk is also the founder of SpaceX that makes the Dragon V2 crew capsule and has been awarded NASA contracts for his company's manned and unmanned spacecraft designs.

Apparently the wealthy did not fully latch on to this idea, however as a result the real astronauts ended up receiving a rather fancy international space station to stay aboard. A person who did accept Russian’s offer was a 60-year old California millionaire named Dennis Tito who traveled to the International Space Station for a 10-day visit in 2010. The Soyuz capsule ridden by the adventurous millionaire from the financial industry departed Earth from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in the independent Asian nation of Kazakhstan.3

Low Earth orbit
The International Space Station orbits around the Earth at an altitude called Low Earth orbit.  This distance ranges from 160 kilometers (99 mi.) to 2000 kilometers (1,200 mi.) above the Earth’s surface.4

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By Andrea Boggs