A three-person crew is back on planet Earth after spending six months aboard the International Space Station. The crew included the first Russian woman to serve on the station.
Two Russian cosmonauts and one American astronaut arrived safely home to Earth Thursday after concluding a six-month stint on the International Space Station (ISS).
Alexander Samokutyaev, Yelena Serova and Barry Wilmore returned to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz space capsule, landing upright amid heavy fog near the town of Zhezkazgan, in central Kazakhstan. Recovery crews arrived within minutes of the landing to extract the crew from the capsule.
"The Expedition 42 crew is back on Earth, " NASA commentator Rob Navias said as the US space agency broadcast the landing live.
All three crew members are said to be in good condition and will undergo brief medical tests.
After NASA retired its shuttle program, the world relies on Russian Soyuz capsules to transport personnel to and from the ISS
"Soft landing guys. We're going to miss you," ISS commander Terry Virts radioed as his crewmates departed for Earth.
Samokutyaev, Serova and Wilmore left Earth on September 26 and traveled more than 70 million miles (112 million km) during their six months in outer space. Serova is the first Russian woman to serve on the station, which is a $100 billion project of 15 nations.
Three other astronauts currently remain on the space station and the next crew scheduled to join them will launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on March 28. That crew will consist of US astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka.
The mission will focus on "collecting valuable biomedical data that will inform future deep space, long-duration missions," according to NASA.
bw/gsw (Reuters, AFP, AP)