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Soyuz space capsule returns to Earth from 115-day mission

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is carried to a medical tent after she is helped out of the Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft along with cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and astronaut Takuya Onishi of JAXA who landed in Kazakhstan Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is carried to a medical tent after she is helped out of the Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft along with cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and astronaut Takuya Onishi of JAXA who landed in Kazakhstan Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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.

The Soyuz spacecraft descends beneath a parachute with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and astronaut Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Kazakhstan Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016.
The Soyuz spacecraft descends beneath a parachute with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and astronaut Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Kazakhstan Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016.

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.