A Russian spacecraft carrying a crew of three including US billionaire space tourist Charles Simonyi landed safely in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, officials said.
The Soyuz capsule touched down around 11:15 a m (IST 1145), about three hours after leaving the international space station. It descended on parachutes and then hit the ground in a jarring puff of dust and dirt.
Russian and American space officials and relatives of the Soyuz's crew applauded as the landing was announced at Russian Mission Control in Korolyov, on Moscow's northern outskirts.
Within 20 minutes of the landing, Simonyi, Russian Yuri Lonchakov and American Michael Fincke were extracted from the capsule still strapped in their seats and taken outside under bright sunshine for initial medical examination. The three smiled, gave thumbs-ups to cameras and munched on apples before being carried to waiting helicopters.
"It looks like we know how now to take care of our astronauts and cosmonauts in orbit so that they look good on landing," NASA official Brian O'Connor told reporters at a post-landing news conference.
Simonyi's wife of four months, Lisa Persdotter, met him at the landing, giving him a long kiss and bouncing on her toes in excitement.