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The International Space Station: Expedition 36

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Last May, the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) started Expedition 36, beginning a 166-day mission conducting experiments in microgravity while orbiting the Earth more than 2,500 times. Some of the research goals for Expedition 36 included investigations into the effects of weightlessness on human eyesight, micro-satellites designed to work in teams, and the evaporation and combustion of new liquid fuels. The crew of six astronauts from the United States, Russia, and Italy also took hundreds of photographs of life aboard the ISS and the spectacular views from orbit. Collected here are scenes from Expedition 36, which concluded earlier today with the safe touchdown of a Soyuz spacecraft in a remote location in Kazakhstan. [42 photos]

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Photographers take pictures of the launch of the Soyuz-FG rocket booster carrying the Soyuz TMA-09M space ship with a new crew to the International Space Station (ISS), as it blasted off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan, on May 29, 2013. The spacecraft blasted off for a six-hour trip to the ISS, for the start of Expedition 36. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)
Photographers take pictures of the launch of the Soyuz-FG rocket booster carrying the Soyuz TMA-09M space ship with a new crew to the International Space Station (ISS), as it blasted off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan, on May 29, 2013. The spacecraft blasted off for a six-hour trip to the ISS, for the start of Expedition 36. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)
Prior to launch, members of the next mission to the ISS, U.S. astronaut Karen Nyberg, left, Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, center, and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano pose for the media after a news conference in the Baikonur Cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan, on May 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel) #
Hands of Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin are seen inside of a mock-up of a Soyuz TMA space craft at the cosmonaut training center in Star City, outside Moscow, on April 30, 2013, before taking their pre-flight exam. (Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images) #
NASA U.S. astronaut Karen Nyberg smiles in front of a mock-up of a Soyuz TMA space craft at the cosmonaut training center in Star City, outside Moscow, on April 30, 2013. (Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images) #
The Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft is rolled out by train to the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad,on May 26, 2013, in Kazakhstan. (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls) #
Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA looks on as the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft arrives at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad by train, on May 26, 2013. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images) #
The Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft, on its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, on May 26, 2013. (Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov) #
An Orthodox priest conducts a blessing service in front of the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft on the launch pad, on May 27, 2013. (Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov) #
Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg receives a traditional blessing from an Orthodox Priest, along with Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian Federal Space Agency, and Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency, in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on May 28, 2013. (Reuters/NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout) #
Russia's Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft blasts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome early on May 29, 2013. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Soyuz rocket with Expedition 36/37 Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineers: Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency, center, and Karen Nyberg of NASA, onboard, launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, bound for the ISS, on May 29, 2013. (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #
An eruption from Mount Pavlof, Alaska, seen from orbit in May of 2013. (NASA) #
On June 21, 2013, Russian cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin (left) and Alexander Misurkin participate in a suited exercise dry run in preparation for a spacewalk in their Russian Orlan spacesuits. (NASA) #
Inside the Cupola, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano eyeballs a point on Earth some 250 miles below him before pinpointing a specific photo target of opportunity, on June 2, 2013. He holds a digital still camera, equipped with a 400mm lens. (NASA) #
One of the Expedition 36 crew members aboard the ISS, flying at an altitude of approximately 257 miles above the Indian Ocean, recorded this image of the sun about to go down, on June 2, 2013. (NASA) #
In the Destiny laboratory, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg speaks into a microphone while conducting a session with the Advanced Colloids Experiment (ACE)-1 sample preparation at the Light Microscopy Module (LMM) in the Fluids Integrated Rack/Fluids Combustion Facility, on June 24, 2013. ACE-1 is a series of microscopic imaging investigations that uses the microgravity environment to examine flow characteristics and the evolution and ordering effects within a group of colloidal materials. (NASA) #
ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano attired in his Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuit, prepares to exit the Quest airlock to begin a session of extravehicular activity (EVA) along with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, on July 9, 2013. (NASA) #
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy exits the Quest airlock for a session of extravehicular activity, as work continues on the ISS, on July 9, 2013. During the six-hour, seven-minute spacewalk, Cassidy and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano (out of frame) prepared the space station for a new Russian module and performed additional installations on the station's backbone. (NASA) #
ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano works on the ISS during an EVA on on July 16, 2013. A little more than one hour into the spacewalk, Parmitano reported water floating behind his head inside his helmet. The water was not an immediate health hazard for Parmitano, but Mission Control decided to end the spacewalk early. (NASA) #
One of the Expedition 36 crew members aboard the ISS recorded this image of unusual cloud patterns surrounding Guadalupe Island in the Pacific Ocean (left center), on August 24, 2013. These are the result of a ubiquitous occurrence in the motion of fluids -- a vortex street, which is a linear chain of spiral eddies called von Karman vortices. Von Karman vortices are named after Theodore von Karman, a co-founder of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who first described the phenomenon in the atmosphere. Guadalupe Island or Isla Guadalupe is a volcanic island located 241 km off the west coast of Mexico's Baja California peninsula. (NASA) #
Arianespace's unmanned Ariane 5 rocket, carrying the automated transfer vehicle (ATV) Albert Einstein, lifts off June 5, 2013 from Kourou, French Guiana along South America's northeast coast. The ATV will resupply the ISS with 14,500 pounds of propellant, food, experiments, water and oxygen. The mission marks the heaviest payload ever lifted by an Ariane rocket. (Stephane Corvaja/ESA via Getty Images) #
The ESA's ATV-4 "Albert Einstein", about to dock to with the ISS, on June 15, 2013, following a ten-day flight. (NASA) #
The ESA's ATV-4 "Albert Einstein" approaches the ISS. The spacecraft went on to successfully dock shortly afterward. (NASA) #
Astronaut Karen Nyberg's long hair floats free in microgravity, in the Unity node aboard the ISS, on June 3, 2013. (NASA) #
An Expedition 36 crew member aboard the ISS, as it was passing over Africa, took this night picture of Sicily and much of Italy, on July 29, 2013. The Stretto de Messina, which separates Sicily from Italy, is near frame center. The high oblique 50mm lens shot includes a scenic horizon with a number of stars in the late July sky. Barely visible in the darkness, part of the long arm of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2 runs diagonally through the right one-third of the image. (NASA) #
Seen from orbit, the West Fork Complex fire in southern Colorado, on June 19, 2013. (NASA) #
In the Destiny laboratory, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy wears tele-operation gear consisting of a vest, gloves and visor to telerobotically test Robonaut 2's maneuvers, on August 6, 2013. Cassidy was able to manipulate R2's head, neck, arms and fingers telerobotically through his own movements as well as through verbal commands. (NASA) #
A panoramic view of most of the length of the Red Sea as a dust plume surges out from Egypt (left) over the Red Sea and reaching most of the way to Saudi Arabia (right) as seen from the ISS, on June 22, 2013 and released on July 10, 2013. (Reuters/NASA) #
The unpiloted Japanese "Kounotori" H2 Transfer Vehicle-4 (HTV-4) approaches the ISS, on August 9, 2013. The HTV, a 33-foot-long, 13-foot-diameter unmanned cargo transfer spacecraft, delivered 3.6 tons of science experiments, equipment and supplies to the orbiting complex. HTV-4 launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan on August 3. (NASA) #
The Canadarm2 grapples the unpiloted Japanese "Kounotori" HTV-4, as it approaches the station, and will attach it to the Earth-facing port of the station's Harmony node, on August 9, 2013. (NASA) #
In the Kibo laboratory, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy conducts a session with a pair of bowling-ball-sized free-flying satellites known as Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES, on August 13, 2013. (NASA) #
ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano uses a digital still camera to expose a photo of his helmet visor during an EVA, as work continues on the ISS, on July 9, 2013. Also visible in the reflections in the visor are various components of the space station and a blue and white portion of Earth. (NASA) #
Anchored to a Canadarm2 mobile foot restraint, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, during an EVA, on July 9, 2013. (NASA) #
A stationary camera onboard the ISS took this picture of the Japanese HTV-4 cargo spacecraft as it entered Earth's atmosphere, burning up, on September 7, 2013. HTV-4 was launched on August 4, and after spending a month docked to the orbital outpost, was released on September 4. (NASA) #
The state of Texas is captured by one of the NASA Expedition 36 crew members aboard the ISS, some 240 miles above Earth, on June 27, 2013. The largest metro area, Dallas-Fort Worth, often referred to informally as the Metroplex, is the heavily cloud-covered area at the top center of the photo. Neighboring Oklahoma, on the north side of the Red River, less than 100 miles away, appears to be experiencing thunderstorms. The Houston metropolitan area, including the coastal city of Galveston, is at lower right. To the east near the Texas border with Louisiana, the metropolitan area of Beaumont-Port Arthur appears as a smaller blotch of light, also hugging the coast of the Texas Gulf. Moving inland to the left side of the picture one can delineate the San Antonio metro area. The capital city of Austin can be seen to the northeast of San Antonio. (Reuters/NASA) #
A crew member aboard the ISS used a 50mm lens to record this image of a large mass of storm clouds over the Atlantic Ocean near Brazil and the Equator, on July 4, 2013. A Russian spacecraft, docked to the orbiting outpost, partially covers a small patch of sunglint on the ocean waters in a break in the clouds. (NASA) #
At the end of Expedition 36, a Soyuz capsule carrying three astronauts, Commander Pavel Vinogradov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), flight engineer Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos and flight engineer Chris Cassidy of NASA, drifts through the sky after re-entry, before landing in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on September 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Maxim Shipenkov) #
Russian search and rescue helicopters fly over Kazakhstan, ahead of the scheduled landing of the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft. (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls) #
A Soyuz capsule, scorched from re-entry, carries three astronauts toward touchdown in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on September 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Maxim Shipenkov) #
The Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft lands in a remote area of Kazakhstan, on September 11, 2013. (Reuters/NASA/Bill Ingalls) #
A Soyuz capsule carrying three astronauts comes to rest after landing in Kazakhstan, on September 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Maxim Shipenkov) #
Expedition 36 Commander Pavel Vinogradov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) is carried to the medical tent shortly after he and, Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos and Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy of NASA landed in their Soyuz capsule in Kazakhstan, on September 11, 2013. Vinogradov, Misurkin and Cassidy returned to Earth after 166 days on the International Space Station. (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls) #

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