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ISS astronauts returns safely to Earth

Moscow, Sep 11 (): Three astronauts including two Russians and an American returned back to Earth capping a five-month trek to the International Space Station. Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin and American Chris Cassidy landed safely in Kazakhstan today.

They pulled away from the station’s Poisk module at 7:35 p.m. EDT/1135 GMT as the two ships sailed 258 miles above Mongolia, NASA said. The capsule Soyuz TMA-08M undocked from the space station on Tuesday and made a touchdown in the planned area, a spokesman for Russia’s Mission Control Center said earlier.

A rescue team made their way to the capsule by helicopter. Each of the men was carried to reclining chairs, and spent several minutes to acclimatize to Earth’s gravity.

Earlier, they were lifted to the International Space Station on March 28. They performed several spacewalks during the flight. The three men formed half of the space station’s Expedition 35 and 36 crews. Mr Vinogradov, 60, had been commander of the ISS. They successfully halted the leak of the station’s power system that affected the US segment of the orbiting laboratory.

Vinogradov, smiling as rescuers sponged his face said, “Everything went well, very smoothly. OK, I’m thinking about coffee and apples.”

Chris Cassidy said, “Pavel (Vinogradov) was leading us the whole way. It was just a memorable flight.”

Live NASA footage first showed the shuttle parachuting to a safe and punctual landing and the three men emerging from the capsule and the commentator said that they would be given medical checkup and various tests that could provide information for future flights.

The International Space Station has been continuously staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000.  The station will be manned by just three astronauts until a fresh three-member crew is expected to join them by the end of September.

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