Three astronauts land on Earth from ISS in Russian capsule
Three astronauts on Tuesday landed safely in the Kazakh steppe aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule after a stay of over five months aboard the International Space Station, Russian mission control said.
American Mike Fossum, Japan's Satoshi Furukawa and Russia's Sergei Volkov touched down outside the remote settlement of Arkalyk in Kazakhstan just before sunrise after undocking from the ISS earlier in the day.
"It has landed," said a message flashed on the screen at Moscow mission control shown in a live relay. State television pictures showed the astronauts being extracted from the capsule apparently in good health.
Initial reports said that the Soyuz capsule had landed on its side rather than its bottom after descending to Earth with a parachute but such landing was not unusual.
Volkov, the first of the astronauts to be carried out of the capsule, was placed in a chair with a blue rug to protect himself from the sub zero morning temperatures as dawn broke over the steppe.
Both Fossum and Furukawa were then both safely extracted from the Soyuz, state television pictures showed.
It was during their stay on the ISS that a Russian unmanned Progress supply ship carrying supplies for the station crashed into Siberia in August shortly after launch, forcing a complete rejig of the timetable for manned spaceflight.
Their return to Earth leaves three astronauts remaining on the ISS, American Dan Burbank and Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin who blasted off from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 14.
They will be joined by another multinational crew of three astronauts that is due to blast off from Baikonur on December 21.
Following the retirement of the US shuttle in July, Russia is currently the only nation capable of transporting humans to the ISS.
© 2011 AFP