Friends in high places, now back to Earth

Welcome home,  Serena and Alex!

ANSMET has been fortunate to include a number of astronauts (former and current) as field party members.  There’s also a fair number of astronauts who have let us know they are ANSMET “wannabees”, hoping to join us some season.  One of each of these has just returned from orbit!   Serena Aunon-Chancellor (ANSMET class of 2010-11) and Alexander Gerst (who recently chose to be ISS Commander rather than join ANSMET, I’m sure it seemed like the right decision at the time) came down to Earth on their Soyuz MS-09/55S early this morning,  landing right on time and in almost polar conditions in Khazakhstan.  There’s a really nice article about their landing and experiences at,  with some great quotes from Serena.

Alex and Serena graciously kept in touch while they were on the ISS,  exchanging a few emails  here and there.   Alex (clearly trying make up for giving us the cold shoulder) even tried to arrange a video call with ANSMET from space.  We tried to do this for our October boot camp,  then again while the team was in McMurdo, then again just a week ago;  but bandwidth, timing and other circumstances beyond our control meant it didn’t happen. A lot of good one-liners I prepared for Jim Karner went wasted;  questions like “do you have as much trouble getting the crew dressed to go outside in the morning as we do?”

Still, we got something out of the deal.   Alex graciously brought some ANSMET memorabilia with him to space!  Thus the pictures above, taken in the International Space Station’s Cupola.  Included in the memorabilia is our own version of the astronaut’s traditional “flown flag” (what’s left of an ANSMET flag after being exposed for a few seasons).

Welcome back,  Serena and Alex, we are so glad you’re back safe and sound.  And because a lot of ANSMET vets are themselves astronaut wannabees,  thank you for sharing your experiences.

As a holiday gift to our readers,  I’ve posted the full-res versions of the pictures, with Alex’s and ESA’s blessings.  You should be able to download them by clicking them above……  should be on every desktop in NASA headquarters if you ask me.

-Ralph, from Cleveland OH

PS,  I will be extremely disappointed if that bumper sticker isn’t on the rear fender of the ISS.