Brazil's first astronaut on way home from space
US, Russian, Brazilian begin journey home from international space station.india Updated: Apr 09, 2006 04:57 IST
A capsule carrying Brazil's first astronaut, along with a Russian and an American, separated early on Sunday from the international space station and began hurtling toward Earth.
American astronaut Bill McArthur, Russian cosmonaut Valery Tokarev and Brazilian Marcos Pontes were strapped tightly into a Soyuz spacecraft for the bone-jarring journey home. They were set to touch down in the steppes of Kazakhstan at about 0347 am Moscow time (0517 IST).
McArthur and Tokarev had spent more than six months on the space station. They were replaced by Russian commander Pavel Vinogradov and US Flight engineer Jeff Williams, who arrived at the station together with Pontes on April 1. Pontes had travelled to the station for a weeklong stint.
The American space programme has depended on the Russians for cargo and astronaut delivery since the February 2003 Columbia explosion grounded the shuttle fleet. The shuttle Discovery visited the station last July but problems with the external fuel tank's foam insulation have cast doubt on when shuttles might return to flying.
More than 15 helicopters and other aircraft and some 150 salvage crew have been deployed to the town of Arkalyk in northern Kazakhstan, the area where the Soyuz TMA-7 capsule is expected to land, said Vladimir Popov, the head of the Russian space search and rescue service, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.