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Space trio return to Earth after six months aboard orbiting station

A Nasa astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

A Russian Soyuz MS-17 space capsule standing on the ground after landing.
A Russian Soyuz MS-17 space capsule standing on the ground after landing.
Image: PA

A US ASTRONAUT and two Russian cosmonauts have returned to Earth after six months aboard the International Space Station.

A Soyuz space capsule carrying Nasa’s Kate Rubins and Russians Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov landed today in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said all three were feeling well after they were extracted from the capsule and began reacclimatising to the pull of gravity.

The three had arrived at the orbiting laboratory complex on October 14.

There now are seven people aboard the ISS: Nasa astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russians Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov arrived on April 9; Americans Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi, came aboard in November on the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience, the first ISS docking under Nasa’s commercial crew programme.

Last night, Nasa chose SpaceX to build the lunar lander that will eventually put the first woman and person of colour on the moon.

The announcement came a few hours after SpaceX’s most international crew of astronauts yet arrived in Florida for a lift-off next week.

Elon Musk’s Starship — the futuristic, shiny steel rocketship that’s been launching and exploding in Texas — beat out landers proposed by Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Dynetics, a subsidiary of Leidos, for the contract worth $2.89 billion (€2.4 billion).

“We won’t stop at the moon,” said Nasa’s acting administrator Steve Jurczyk, adding that Mars is the ultimate goal.

Nasa declined to provide a target launch date for the moon-landing Artemis mission, saying a review is underway.

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The Trump administration had set a 2024 deadline, but on Friday Nasa officials called it a goal.

“We’ll do it when it’s safe,” said Kathy Lueders, who leads Nasa’s human space exploration office.

She indicated Nasa and SpaceX are shooting for later this decade.

The astronauts will fly to the moon on the Nasa-launched Orion capsule, then transfer to Starship in lunar orbit for the ride down to the surface and back.

Nasa has said at least one of the first moonwalkers since 1972 would be the first woman on the moon, while another goal of the programme is to send a person of colour to the lunar surface.

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