By ANA PHELAN, age 9

Russian Flight Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin, left, Russian Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy, center, and Commander Kevin Ford of NASA, right. PHOTO: NASA

On Saturday, March 16, three astronauts returned to Earth from space. Astronaut Kevin Ford from the United States and cosmonauts* Evgeny Tarelkin and Oleg Novitskiy from Russia were up in space for 144 days. While orbiting (moving in a curved path) around the Earth, the astronauts were experimenting with the way objects are affected by gravity. They also worked on a project called MICROFLOW1, which will help scientists count molecules and cells in blood or other body fluids.

When Kevin Ford was asked why he went out into space, he said: “I think it’s in our human nature to want to do it yourself as a person…. We project ourselves out there and we really want to go explore on our own, have a look with our own eyes.”

In space there is no air to breath, so astronauts wear tanks filled with oxygen to stay alive. Also, there is no gravity in space. When an astronaut goes outside of their shuttle, they attach a rope connected to the shuttle to the back of their uniform so they don’t float away.

Kevin Ford and his mates went up into space in a rocket and came back to Earth in a capsule that landed in Kazakhstan. Astronauts come back to Earth by firing the same rockets that got them into space. This will slow them down while gravity pulls them toward their landing target on Earth. If they return in a space shuttle, it will glide down on wheels a lot like an airplane. If they land in a capsule, an attached parachute will open and help them to make a light touchdown.

*The only difference between an astronaut and a cosmonaut is what country they are from: in Russia they are called cosmonauts while in the United States they are called astronauts.