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Astronauts land in Kazakhstan after delayed return from ISS

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A file photo of Soyuz landing.

MOSCOW (AFP): Two Western astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut landed in Kazakhstan Friday, safely returning to Earth after their flight back home was delayed for a month by a Russian rocket failure.

Both Russian mission control and NASA showed a capsule carrying Russian Anton Shkaplerov, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and Terry Virts of the United States landing on schedule in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

The trio appeared in good health as they emerged out of the capsule with the help of officials, giving them thumbs up and smiling under a setting sun.

"It was a textbook homecoming," a NASA commentator said.

A spokesman for the Russian mission control said that the Soyuz descent module landed southeast of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan, after detaching from the ISS more than three hours earlier.

"Everything is fine, everything is okay," he told AFP.

Soyuz commander Shkaplerov expressed hope that "joint work" would continue in the future.

All eyes were trained on the flight back home for the three astronauts after Russia was in May forced to delay their return, as well as the departure of their replacements, after a supply ship crashed back to Earth following a rocket failure.

The trio ended up spending nearly 200 days on the station, with Cristoforetti, 38, breaking the record for the longest single stay by a woman in space.

The next manned mission to the ISS is due to blast off between July 23 and 25, launching from Kazakhstan with astronauts from Russia, Japan and the US.

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Russian Oleg Kononenko and Japan's Kimiya Yui will join Russia's Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko and Scott Kelly of NASA who are continuing research and maintenance aboard the station.

Russia's space programme was hit by two failures within weeks in May, with the Progress crash followed by the failure of a Proton rocket carrying a Mexican satellite.

Tags:

Astronaut  ISS  NASA  Russia  Soyuz  Proton  Rocket  
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