Astronauts Chris Cassidy (from left), Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin sit in chairs shortly after landing in Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Wednesday. (AP-Yonhap News)
MOSCOW (AFP) ― Three astronauts returned to Earth Wednesday on board a Russian Soyuz capsule after a half-year mission on the International Space Station, landing in Kazakhstan, mission control in Moscow announced.
Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin landed on schedule at 8:58 a.m. Kazakh time (0258 GMT) in the Kazakh steppe, along with American Chris Cassidy.
A live feed on Russian mission control’s website showed rescuers extracting the three astronauts who were helped into chairs in the long grass of the steppe on a bright sunny morning.
“Everything went well, very smoothly,” said Vinogradov, smiling as rescuers sponged his face.
“Pavel (Vinogradov) was leading us the whole way. It was just a memorable flight,” said Cassidy, shaking hands with Vinogradov.
Vinogradov, 60, had been commander of the ISS with flight engineers Cassidy, 43, and Misurkin, 35. The group took off from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome on March 29 and their mission lasted 167 days.
“The Soyuz TMA-08M capsule landed southeast of the town of Zhezkazgan at 6:58 Moscow time. The landing went as planned,” the Russian space agency said.
Cassidy took part in a dramatic spacewalk in May with another NASA astronaut, Tom Marshburn. They managed to halt an ammonia leak to the station’s power system that affected the U.S. segment of the orbiting laboratory.
The three men were the first to take an express trip to the ISS in March, taking just under six hours instead of the usual two days to orbit and dock. Under a new technique now employed by the Russian space agency, the Soyuz capsule only orbited Earth four times before docking at the ISS.