MOSCOW: Three astronauts returned to Earth yesterday on board a Russian Soyuz capsule after a half-year mission on the International Space Station (ISS), landing in Kazakhstan, mission control in Moscow announced.
Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin landed on schedule at 8:58 am 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.
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.
Cassidy took part in a dramatic spacewalk in May with another NASA astronaut, Tom Marshburn. They managed to successfully halt an ammonia leak to the station's power system that affected the US segment of the orbiting laboratory.
The three men were 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, instead of orbiting the Earth 30 times. AFP