Russian Soyuz Craft Returns to Earth from ISS

MOSCOW -- A Russian Soyuz space capsule carrying a U.S. astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut from the International Space Station landed in Kazakhstan on Thursday.

The capsule --- ferrying Expedition 22 Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev -- landed in the vast steppe near Arkalyk in northern Kazakhstan as planned, Russia's Mission Control said. The U.S. space agency confirmed that the Soyuz capsule, carrying astronauts from the United States and Russia, landed safely.

Agency spokesman Rob Navias said parachutes slowed the craft before it touched down at 5:24 p.m. local time (11:24 GMT) Thursday in Kazakhstan's northern steppes.

A NASA Webcast said winds blew the Russian capsule carrying NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian Maxim Surayev onto its side. Several Russian Mi-8 helicopters hovered above the designated landing site in the minutes before touchdown.

The astronauts spent more than five months on the international space station. They are to be brought to Moscow on Thursday evening. While on board the ISS, the astronauts supported two space shuttle flights and helped install the Tranquility module, the cupola viewing port and a second Russian docking module. Scientific research aboard the station continued to ramp up with the increase in available crew time and laboratory facilities.

Williams now has logged 362 total days in space, placing him fourth on the all-time U.S. list of long-duration space travelers. Peggy Whitson, who has spent 377 days in space, tops that list.

The information was excitedly confirmed by Tweeting astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who posted to his twitter account "Soyuz TMA-16 -- successfully landed!"

Staying behind are Flight Engineers Soichi Noguchi and T.J. Creamer and new Expedition 23 Commander Oleg Kotov. Expedition 23 officially began its increment when Williams and Suraev undocked at 4:03 a.m. from the Poisk Mini-Research Module.

The trio, who will stay until June, joined Williams and Suraev after arriving in their Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft in December 2009.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.