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3-man crew returns safely from International Space Station

A Soyuz space capsule carrying a three-man crew from the International Space Station landed safely Tuesday on the steppes of Kazakhstan.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, American Thomas Marshburn, and Russian Roman Romanenko landed as planned southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan at 8:31 a.m. local time Tuesday (10:31 p.m.  EDT Monday night) following a 146-day mission to the International Space Station.

Live footage on NASA TV showed the Soyuz TMA-07M capsule slowly descending by parachute onto the sun-drenched steppes under clear skies. Russian search and rescue helicopters hovered over the landing site for a quick recovery effort.

Rescue teams moved quickly to help the crew in their bulky spacesuits get out through the narrow exit hatch of the capsule. They were then put into reclining chairs to start adjusting to Earth's gravity.

The three astronauts smiled as they chatted with space agency officials and doctors who were checking their condition. Hadfield, who served as the space station's commander, gave a thumbs-up sign.

A three-man U.S.-Russian crew is staying on the space station and will be joined in two weeks by the next trio of astronauts.