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Touchdown! Soyuz Spacecraft Lands on Earth with 3 Astronauts

Oct 31, 2016 03:53 AM EDT
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Three astronauts have safely returned to Earth after a 115-day mission on the International Space Station (ISS).

On board the Russian Soyuz space capsule are NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Expedition 49 commander Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The spacecraft successfully landed near the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan at 11:58 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Oct. 29.

Russian recovery teams helped the astronauts exit the spacecraft and adjust to gravity. Rubins and Onishi will be returning to Houston, Texas aboard a NASA jet while Ivanishin will be flown back to his training base at Star City, Russia, NASA said.

"Touchdown confirmed. After a journey of 115 days and 48.9 million miles, the Expedition 49 crew is home," a NASA spokesman said in a video commentary.

The astronauts are part of Expedition 49 and have contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science while on the ISS. It was the first spaceflight for Rubins and Onishi while Ivanishin had been part of Expeditions 29 and 30 and had flown to the ISS in 2011.

During her time in the space lab, Rubins conducted the first DNA sequencing in space using the UK-made Biomolecule Sequencer MinION. She also participated in a spacewalk to install an international docking adapter that will allow commercial vehicles to dock with the station in the coming years, and another one to spare a thermal control radiator and install two new HD cameras.

The group also welcomed three cargo ships delivering supplies and science experiments, which includes the most recent grappling of Orbital ATK's Cygnus spacecraft to the station on Oct. 23.

The arrival of the crew marks the end of Expedition 49 and the start of Expedition 50, with NASA's Shane Kimbrough in command and crewmates Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, who will operate the station for three weeks until the arrival of three new crew members, NASA said.

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