American, two Russians back on Earth after half-year in space
Two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut today landed back on Earth in Kazakhstan after a stay of more than half a year aboard the International Space Station
Russians Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins touched down in their Soyuz capsule at 0324 GMT outside Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.
The undocking and landing had initially been postponed due to bad weather but were then allowed to go ahead and mission control said that the landing had proceeded on schedule.
The three spacemen were extracted from the capsule in good shape and wrapped with blankets to protect them from the fierce early-morning cold on the snowy Kazakh steppe.
The trio were due to undergo medical checks on the spot before being flown by helicopter to the Kazakh city of Karaganda. All three were said to have told mission control they felt good during the descent.
The Soyuz capsule undocked from the ISS at 2345 GMT yesterday, with the departing astronauts leaving on board the station Koichi Wakata of Japan, the new ISS commander; American Rick Mastracchio; and Russian Mikhail Tyurin.
The Soyuz capsule lands according to principles little changed since the first space flight of Yuri Gagarin in 1961, with a parachute helping the capsule to touch down safely on Earth after re-entering the atmosphere.