International Space Station crew returns to Earth
After nearly six months aboard the ISS, a cosmonaut and two astronauts have touched down in Kazakhstan safely in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
In Pictures Aboard the International Space Station
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft touched down on at about 11:25 a.m. EDT (0325 Wednesday GMT) on the central steppes of Kazakhstan in Central Asia with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov and two crewmates – one each from the United States and Japan – onboard. It was 9:25 a.m. Wednesday local time at the landing site.
Recovery crews reported that the Soyuz capsule had tilted on its side after landing, which has happened before, but overall it was a smooth landing, NASA officials said.
"Bye-bye station!" Kotov said as the Soyuz carrying him and two crewmates departed the orbiting lab, revealing the huge space station ahead. "Beautiful view."
He is returning to Earth with American astronaut Timothy "T.J." Creamer of NASA and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi. The three men made up half of the space station's full six-person crew and had lived aboard the orbiting laboratory since mid-December.
"Oh! I forgot something. Can we go back?" Creamer joked as the Soyuz moved ever-farther away from the station. His crewmates laughed. [Photos: March's Snowy Soyuz landing.]
Goodbye space station
The Soyuz TMA-17 landed just hours after undocking from the space station at 8:04 p.m. EDT (0004 Wednesday GMT) as both spacecraft flew 215 miles (346 km) above Mongolia. Kotov said the undocking went extremely smoothly.
"Strap in tight guys," said station crewmate Tracy Caldwell Dyson, an American astronaut representing NASA who stayed behind on the station with two other cosmonauts to start the Expedition 24 increment. There were hugs all around as the two crews parted.