Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Three astronauts are back on Earth for the first time in months. The astronauts' ride home from the International Space Station, the Soyuz MS-06 space capsule, touched down safely in Kazakhstan on Tuesday night -- Wednesday morning in Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.
NASA and Russian space agency officials were ready and waiting to welcome home the three Expedition 54 crew members, including NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, as well as cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos.
During the time aboard International Space Station, the trio carried out dozens of experiments. They measured the performance of fiber optic technology in microgravity, tested a novel nano-channel drug delivery implant on mice models and tracked the amount of solar energy entering the Earth's atmosphere.
The crew also received and sent several cargo vessels, unloading new supplies and sending completed experiments back to Earth.
For Vande Hei, the 168 days were his first on the space station. While aboard ISS, he carried out four spacewalks, during which he helped replace the Latching End Effectors on the space station's robotic arm, Canadarm2.
Misurkin also ventured outside the space station, taking part in the longest spacewalk in Russian space program history while trying to replace an electronics box for a communication antenna.
ISS and Expedition 55 is now being commanded by Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos. He's joined inside the space station by Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of JAXA, Japan's space agency.
The three will soon be joined by NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel, as well as Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos. The new trio is slated to fly to the space station on March 21.