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Soyuz capsule returns from space station

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Expedition 36 Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy of NASA, left, Commander Pavel Vinogradov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), center, and, Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos, sit in chairs outside the Soyuz capsule just minutes after they landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Expedition 36 Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy of NASA is carried to the medical tent shortly after he and, Commander Pavel Vinogradov of Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos landed in their Soyuz capsule in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Expedition 36 Commander Pavel Vinogradov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) is carried to the medical tent shortly after landed in their Soyuz capsule in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

  • Russia's space agency ground personnel carry Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, center, shortly after the Soyuz capsule carrying Misurkin and other astronauts has touched down on Earth. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    The Soyuz spacecraft is seen as it lands in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    The Soyuz spacecraft with NASA's Chris Cassidy and Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin lands near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Russia's space agency ground personnel help U.S. astronaut Chris Cassidy, center, shortly after the Soyuz capsule touched down. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Russia's space agency ground personnel carry U.S. astronaut Chris Cassidy, center, shortly after the Soyuz capsule carrying Cassidy and other astronauts has touched down on Earth. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    U.S. astronaut Chris Cassidy speaks on a satellite phone. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov waves shortly after the Soyuz capsule touched down on Earth after undocking from the International Space Station after 166 days in space. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
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MOSCOW >> A Soyuz capsule carrying three astronauts touched down to Earth early on Wednesday morning after undocking from the International Space Station following 166 days in space.

American Chris Cassidy and Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin emerged from the capsule in smiles on an unusually sunny day in Kazakhstan.

Live coverage from NASA, the U.S. space agency, first showed the shuttle parachuting to a safe and punctual landing. Helicopters were then flown to the landing site, where medical and flight crews helped the three men disembark.

The capsule undocked from the space station for a flight to Earth that took just over three hours. The three men blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome on March 29.

Each of the men was carried to reclining chairs, where they spent several minutes in order to acclimatize to Earth’s gravity.

A NASA TV commentator said that crew members Misurkin and Cassidy would be taken to a medical center, where they will undergo various tests that could provide information for future flights. Vinogradov, at 60 the oldest human ever to land in a Soyuz vehicle, would not take part in the same experiments.

Currently the Russian Fyodor Yurchikhin, Karen Nyberg of NASA and the Italian Luca Parmitano are tending the International Space Station until the arrival of a three-person crew scheduled to launch from Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.

The Soyuz is the only means for international astronauts to reach the orbiting laboratory since the decommissioning of the U.S. shuttle fleet in 2011.

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