Astronauts lands safely after three months in space on Russian capsule Three astronauts have landed safely in the Kazakh steppe aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule after a stay of more than five months aboard the International Space Station, Russian mission control said. American Mike Fossum, Japan's Satoshi Furukawa and Russia's Sergei Volkov touched down outside the remote settlement of Arkalyk in Kazakhstan just before sunrise after undocking from the ISS earlier in the day. Before leaving the station, Fossum handed over command to NASA's Dan Burbank, who leads Expedition 30. Burbank and flight engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov of Russia will continue research and maintenance aboard the station, informs Telegraph.co.uk.
"As wonderful as it is to live on board the space station, experience weightlessness, have this glorious view of planet Earth below us, there's probably one downside, especially when it comes to the holidays, and that's being away from family and friends," says NASA astronaut Dan Burbank. "We're going to be real thankful for the opportunity we have to fly abourd this magnificent space station, and we're going to be thankful for the love and the support of all the folks we have back home" says Burbank, according to TG Daily.
The three men were sat down in chairs, swathed in blue rugs and blankets to protect themselves from the sub zero morning temperatures as dawn broke over the snow-dusted steppe. Fossum was shown chatting on a mobile phone. They were then lifted -- still in their chairs -- to a nearby medical tent put up next to the touchdown site to have their space suits removed and go through standard medical tests. The three were then to be helicoptered to the northern Kazakh city of Kostanay for a farewell ceremony before splitting up, with Fossum and Furukawa returning to the United States and Volkov flying to Moscow, says Discovery News.
Fossum handed over command to NASA's Dan Burbank, the head of Expedition 30, who arrived at the ISS along with Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos last week, also aboard a Soyuz craft. The final three members of the current mission are scheduled to launch on December 21 to dock with the space station in time for Christmas on December 23. Following the end of the US Space Shuttle programme, NASA signed a contract with Roscosmos to carry at least 12 American astronauts to and form the ISS on Soyuz ships until 2016. The successes must be giving a much-needed boost to the Russian space agency as it struggles to regain control of its Martian probe Phobos-Grunt, which is stuck in Earth's orbit after its engines failed to send it to the Red Planet, reports Register.