A Soyuz capsule carrying a U.S.-Russian crew returning after spending nearly six months on the International Space Station landed safely on the steppes of Kazakhstan.
NASA said in a live TV broadcast that the capsule carrying American Mike Hopkins and Russians Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy touched down as scheduled southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan at 9:24 a.m. local time Tuesday (0324 GMT, 11:24 p.m. EDT Monday). They spent 166 days in orbit on the space station.
After the Russian Soyuz TMA-10M capsule descended slowly by parachute onto the snow-covered steppes, Russian search and rescue vehicles quickly moved to the landing site for a quick recovery effort. Rescue crews who had maintained contact with the crew during their descent reported they were fine and in good spirits.
Heavy snowfalls and strong winds at the landing site had prompted Russian space officials to consider putting off the landing by a day, but they eventually decided to proceed with the original plan.
Koichi Wakata, the first Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut to command the space outpost, NASA's Rick Mastracchio and Russia's Mikhail Tyurin will remain aboard the space station until mid-May.
They will operate the station as a three-person crew for two weeks until the arrival of the next trio of crew members.