Three astronauts return to Earth from International Space Station
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Three astronauts returned safely to Earth from the International Space Station early today, aboard a Russian capsule which landed on the freezing Kazakhstan steppe, mission control said.
"There is landing!" flashed a Russian mission control centre message transmitted by NASA. Rescue teams rushed to recover the capsule carrying NASA US astronaut Kevin Ford and Russian flight engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin.
"The crew felt normal through the descent and landing, their mood is good," Russian agencies quoted the Russian mission control official commentator. It was the first space mission for Russian astronauts, and the second for astronaut Kevin Ford, who was captain of the crew.
Russia's space agency Roscosmos confirmed the landing time as 0305GMT. "The landing was completed as planned," it said in a statement. "The crew is feeling good. In the coming hours, they will be transported to a permanent location for post-flight rehabilitation."
Today's landing had been delayed by a day due to poor weather conditions, but rescue helicopters still had to brace for thick ground fog and clouds which descended on the landing area and drastically reduced visibility.
The Soyuz vessel landed upright and four workers were shown prying the hatch open to extract the three men. They pulled the crew members out of the capsule and helped them down a special slide to the ground they had not touched since October.
Russian cosmonaut Evgeny Tarelkin pumped his fists as he sat on the edge of the capsule. The smiling men were then bundled up by the Russian rescue workers and sat recovering in special chairs.
They were carried to a helicopter within minutes and out of the subzero temperatures, because no medical tent was brought to the location by the skeleton evacuation crew that braved nearly zero visibility, the NASA commentator said in footage broadcasted online by NASA-TV.
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