A SOYUZ CAPSULE carrying three astronauts touched down on Earth early this morning.
American Chris Cassidy and Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin emerged from the capsule safe and well on an unusually sunny day in Kazakhstan having spent 166 days in space.
The flight to Earth after undocking from the International Space Station took just over three hours.
Live coverage from NASA showed the shuttle parachuting to a safe and punctual landing. Helicopters were then flown to the landing site, where medical and flight crews helped the three men disembark.
(Image Credit: AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls)
The three men originally blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome on March 29th. After landing, they were carried to reclining chairs, where they spent several minutes in order to acclimatize to Earth’s gravity.
A NASA TV commentator said that crew members Misurkin and Cassidy would be taken to a medical center, where they will undergo various tests that could provide information for future flights. Vinogradov, who at 60 is the oldest human ever to land in a Soyuz vehicle, would not take part in the same experiments.
Currently the Russian Fyodor Yurchikhin, Karen Nyberg of NASA and the Italian Luca Parmitano are tending to the International Space Station until the arrival of a three-person crew scheduled to launch from Kazakhstan on September 25.
The Soyuz is the only means for international astronauts to reach the orbiting laboratory since the decommissioning of the U.S. shuttle fleet in 2011.