Snowy landing on steppes for space station astronauts

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A capsule carrying a US-Russian crew back to Earth after nearly six months on the International Space Station landed safely on the steppes of Kazakhstan yesterday.

Nasa said in a live TV broadcast that the Soyuz capsule and its crew – American Mike Hopkins and Russians Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy – touched down as scheduled, south east of the town of Dzhezkazgan. They spent 166 days in orbit on the space station.

After the Russian Soyuz TMA-10M capsule descended slowly by parachute on to the snow-covered steppes, Russian search and rescue vehicles quickly moved to the landing site.

Rescue crews who had maintained contact with the astronauts during their descent reported that they were fine and in good spirits.

Heavy snow and strong winds had prompted Russian space officials to consider putting off the landing by a day, but they eventually decided to proceed.

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 station until mid-May when new crew members will arrive.