The voyage of ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano and his colleagues Alexander Skvortsov and Christina Koch aboard the International Space Station (ISS) ended this morning, as their capsule touched down just after 10 a.m. (CET) in Kazakhstan. Over the course of his six months on board the ISS (including four months as its commander), Luca Parmitano and his colleague Andrew Morgan of NASA carried out four spacewalks to maintain and repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02). Assembled at CERN by an international team of scientists, the detector was installed on the ISS in 2011 and has since collected valuable cosmic-ray data.
The repairs carried out by Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan will extend the lifetime of the experiment, which is searching for dark matter and antimatter, to match that of the space station itself. In particular, during four difficult spacewalks, the two astronauts replaced the cooling system, which is essential to the operation of the cosmic-particle detector.
Watch our video on the spacewalk programme and the work carried out at CERN by scientists from the AMS collaboration in close contact with the astronauts.