It was a happy landing for the astronauts returning to earth this Thursday (June 11), after more than six months spent in space.
The landing went smoothly in the steppes of Kazakhstan. “It was a textbook homecoming for the Expedition 43 crew,” a NASA presenter said after the descent capsule of the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft touched ground at 1944 local time (1344 GMT) in central Kazakhstan.
Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov was the first to enjoy the sunlight and fresh air, followed by Italy’s Samantha Cristoforetti, of the European Space Agency.
Cristoforetti broke a record and is now the female astronaut boasting the single longest spaceflight, with 199 days aboard the International Space Station – a month longer than planned because of a cargo delivery problem.
Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts, of NASA, was last to exit the Soyuz spacecraft.
The three astronauts were carried and put on semi-reclined chairs a few minutes later, under a setting sun. They got their pulse and blood pressure checked and were able to call their families.
NASA estimates the astronauts travelled more than 135 million kilometres since their journey began last November.
Aboard the ISS, they conducted scientific experiments – including testing the effect of microgravity on the immune system – which three colleagues still in space have now taken over.