MOSCOW (AP) — A Soyuz space capsule with a three-man crew returning from a five-month mission to the International Space Station landed safely Tuesday on the steppes of Kazakhstan.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, American Thomas Marshburn and Russian Roman Romanenko landed as planned southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan at 8:31 a.m. local time Tuesday (0231 GMT; 10:31 p.m. EDT Monday).
Live footage on NASA TV showed the Soyuz TMA-07M capsule slowly descending by parachute onto the sun-drenched steppes under clear skies. Russian search and rescue helicopters hovered over the landing site for a quick recovery effort.
Rescue teams moved quickly to help the crew in their bulky spacesuits exit out of the capsule, charred by the fiery re-entry through the atmosphere. They were then put into reclining chairs to start adjusting to the Earth's gravity after 146 days in space.
The three astronauts smiled as they chatted with space agency officials and doctors who were checking their condition. Hadfield, who served as the space station's commander, gave a thumbs-up sign. They made quick phone calls to family members and friends before being carried to a medical tent for a routine medical check-up prior to being flown home.
NASA spokesman Josh Byerly said on NASA TV by telephone from the landing site that the three returning astronauts were fine. "They look like they are doing pretty well," he said.
Hadfield, 53, an engineer and former test pilot from Milton, Ontario, was Canada's first professional astronaut to live aboard the space station and became the first Canadian in charge of a spacecraft. He relinquished command of the space station on Sunday.
"It's just been an extremely fulfilling and amazing experience end to end," Hadfield told Mission Control on Monday. "From this Canadian to all the rest of them, I offer an enormous debt of thanks." He was referring to all those in the Canadian Space Agency who helped make his flight possible.