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Soyuz capsule lands safely with three ISS crew

Expedition 18 Commander Mike Fincke is carried to the medical tent after he, along with cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov, and spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi's landed safely near Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan aboard spacecraft Soyuz TMA-13. Photo credit: NASA

HOUSTON (BNS): Three crew members of NASA’s Expedition 18 mission have touched down safely aboard a Soyuz spacecraft in the steppes of southern Kazakhstan.

US astronaut Mike Fincke, Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov and spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi landed their Soyuz capsule at around 0715 GMT (2:16 a.m. CDT) on Wednesday, NASA said.

The Russian-made spacecraft had been undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) on April 7. The deorbit burn to slow the Soyuz and its descent toward Earth began on April 8. The flight’s landing was moved to a more southerly landing site because of poor landing conditions at the original site, the US space agency said.

The Expedition 18 mission carried out a number of experiments, including human life sciences, physical sciences and Earth observation at the ISS. The experiments are aimed at gathering information about the effects of long-duration spaceflight on human body, which would help with planning future missions to the moon and beyond, NASA said. Other experiments involved practical solutions to extended mission challenges such as repairing electrical components and fighting fire in microgravity.

Fincke commanded the Expedition 18 mission, which saw the station go to full power and begin water supply recycling. He spent 178 days in orbit on the flight and has become the first American to fly to and from the space station twice aboard a Russian Soyuz, the US space agency said.

Lonchakov completed his first long-duration spaceflight. With this mission, he has spent a total of over 200 days in space.

Simonyi, an American, spent 11 days on the station under a commercial agreement with the Russian Federal Space Agency. He is the only spaceflight participant to visit the station twice, NASA said.

Before undocking, Fincke and Lonchakov bid farewell to the new station crew, Expedition 19 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Mike Barratt, who launched to the station aboard a Soyuz on March 26.

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