Spaceflight

NASA: 3 space station astronauts safely return to Earth

Expedition 45 crew members Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency settle into the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft that carried them safely back to Earth on Dec. 11, 2015 after their 141-day mission aboard the International Space Station. (NASA)

Expedition 45 crew members Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency settle into the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft that carried them safely back to Earth on Dec. 11, 2015 after their 141-day mission aboard the International Space Station. (NASA)

A three-person crew from the International Space Station landed safely Friday in the snowy steppes of Kazakhstan, NASA said.

The U.S. space agency's Kjell Lindgren, Russia's Oleg Kononenko and Kimiya Yui of Japan returned to Earth in their Soyuz TMA-17M capsule after 141 days in space. They touched down on schedule about 120 kilometers (about 75 kilometers) northeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

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Kononenko reported to the Russian Mission Control that the crew was feeling fine as the capsule was descending on parachute in thick clouds before landing softly in darkness in the wind-swept steppes.

Russian rescue teams in four helicopters arrived quickly at the landing site to help the crew get out of the capsule.

Because of harsh weather conditions, the trio was to be immediately flown to Dzhezkazgan instead of a usual practice of having the crew to undergo a quick medical check-up in a tent at the landing site.

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Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA, along with crewmates Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos remain on the station. They will be joined by three new crew members next Tuesday. Kelly and Kornienko are on the first joint U.S.-Russian one-year mission.