A Soyuz capsule carrying Russian, U. S. and Japanese astronauts descended safely onto the frigid plains of northern Kazakhstan late Sunday, bringing their four month tour of duty aboard the International Space Station to a successful though wintry close.
The TMA-05M spacecraft, commanded by Yuri Malenchenko and carrying Sunita Williams, of NASA, and Akihiko Hoshide, of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, dropped through a thick low cloud ceiling under parachute to a touchdown northeast of Arkalyk at 8:56 p.m., EST, or Nov. 19 at 7:56 a.m. -- in the pre-dawn local time.
A delay of several seconds in the deployment of the capsule's drogue and main parachutes shifted the capsule's touchdown slightly to the northeast.
Their capsule was met quickly by Russian-led, helicopter borne recovery forces. The recovery team, working in freshly fallen snow and temperatures well below freezing, assisted the three astronauts from the 31 Soyuz mission capsule and administered preliminary medical exams. Though weary, all three former station crew members appeared to be in good shape.
Sunita Williams, left foreground, transfers command of the International
Space Station to NASA's Kevin Ford, right, also of NASA. Photo Credit/
The landing was the first by a Soyuz in ...