A Soyuz reentry capsule with three members of the International Space Station (ISS) crew landed safely in Kazakhstan on Friday afternoon, the Russian-based ISS mission control center said.
The reentry capsule was found near the estimated landing point. Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, and NASA astronaut Dan Burbank are now being evacuated from the capsule, a commentator of the mission control’s live broadcast said.
"The crew felt well during the reentry and landing, the cosmonauts are in good mood, weather conditions in the landing point in Kazakhstan are normal,” said a spokesman for the Federal Agency for Air Transport (Rosaviatsiya), which provided aircraft for the search.
Three planes, 14 helicopters and seven rescue vehicles were deployed to ensure a quick search and recovery of the returning crew from the landing capsule.
After a preliminary medical checkup, the crew will be first flown to nearby Karaganda airfield and then to Chkalovsky airfield near Moscow.
While in orbit, the crew performed one space walk, docked and undocked spacecraft Progress M-14M, Progress M-15M, Soyuz TMA-03M and Europe’s ATV-3 resupply spacecraft. They also accomplished an extensive scientific program, conducting 40 scientific experiments.
Shkaplerov, Ivanishin and Burbank were scheduled to return to Earth on board the Soyuz TMA-22 on March 16 but the delayed launch of the Soyuz-TMA-04M with the next ISS expedition set back the return plans date.
The next expedition to the ISS will comprise Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin, and NASA astronaut Joseph Acaba. The expected launch date is May 15.
The new members of the ISS crew will join NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers, who arrived at the ISS in December to spend 147 days aboard the orbital station.
Kononenko will assume ISS commander duties instead of Burbank.