Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian astronaut to command the International Space Station on Tuesday returned to Earth along with two other astronauts after a half year mission to the International Space Station that saw him become a global celebrity through his Twitter microblog.
Hadfield landed safely in the Kazakh steppe along with American Tom Marshburn and Russian Roman Romanenko aboard a Russian Soyuz-TMA capsule that had left the space station earlier Tuesday morning, mission control said.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield gestures after the Russian Soyuz space capsule landed some 150 kilometers (94 miles) southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan.AP Photo
Russian state television pictures showed the giant white parachute of the Soyuz capsule unfurling successfully after re-entry and the capsule then touching down in the Kazakh steppe, sending a plume of dust upwards into the sky.
The Soyuz touched down at 0231 GMT in the steppe south of the central Kazakh city of Karaganda, Russian mission control and NASA TV confirmed.
On a sunny spring morning, all three astronauts were then successfully extracted from the capsule by recovery teams who rushed to the scene.
They were then placed in special chairs amid the long steppe grasses, covered in special thermal blankets and offered tea by the ground crews. All three appeared in good health.
The Russian Soyuz space capsule, carrying U.S. astronaut Tom Marshburn, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, descends some 150 km (90 miles) southeast of the town of Zhezkazgan, in central Kazakhstan. Reuters
The Russian Soyuz space capsule, carrying US astronaut Tom Marshburn, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, lands some 150 km (90 miles) southeast of the town of Zhezkazgan, in central Kazakhstan. Reuters
Hadfield had captured the public imagination with regular updates on Twitter that gave an unprecedented insight into daily life in space and access to spectacular images taken from the ISS.
In a fitting climax to his mission, Hadfield posted a cover version of the David Bowie classic "Space Oddity" that showed him singing and even playing the guitar aboard the station. It became an immediate hit on YouTube.
The mission of Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko, who blasted off 146 days ago, was the 35th expedition aboard the space station, a permanently staffed laboratory for biomedical, materials science, technology demonstrations and other research.
Their replacements are due to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on May 28. Until then, a skeleton crew commanded by Pavel Vinogradov and including NASA astronaut Cassidy and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin will keep the station operating.
In this image provided by NASA Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency, left, Russian Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency, center, and NASA Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn sit in chairs outside the Soyuz Capsule just minutes after they landed in a remote area outside the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. AP Photo
The crew's return to Earth comes on the 40th anniversary of the launch of the first US space station, Skylab. Three crews lived and worked on the relatively short-lived Skylab between May 1973 and February 1974.
The project helped NASA prepare for in-flight research aboard the space shuttles and the International Space Station, which was constructed in orbit beginning in 1998.
The outpost, which is scheduled to remain in orbit until at least 2020, has been permanently staffed since November 2000.
(With inputs from AFP and Reuters)