MOSCOW – A Russian Soyuz space capsule has landed in Kazakhstan, bringing three astronauts from the United States, Japan and Russia back to Earth from a 115-day mission aboard the International Space Station.
The landing took place Sunday morning near Dzhezkazgan on the treeless Central Asian steppes.
Kate Rubins of NASA, Japan's Takuya Onishi and Anatoly Ivanishin of Russia were removed from the capsule and sat on the steppes still in their capsule seats while they readjusted to the forces of gravity after nearly four months in weightless conditions, then were taken to a nearby medical tent for initial examination.
Rubins, a molecular biologist, became the first astronaut to sequence DNA in space during her stay on the Space Station.
Sequencing DNA of living organisms in space could enable astronauts to diagnose an illness or identify active microbes and if they pose a health risk, according to NASA.
Andrei Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhykov of Russia and NASA astronaut Robert Shane Kimbrough remain aboard the space station. They arrived on Oct. 22 after a two-day voyage.
The trip back to Earth was much quicker for the three returnees on Sunday, about 3 1/2 hours from undocking until landing.
The capsule landed as scheduled and was closely tracked by helicopters as it wafted through partly cloudy skies under a parachute marked in red and white concentric circles. The craft landed upright, which made the extraction of the astronauts quicker than when capsules land on their sides.