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ISS Crew Returns To Earth After Almost Six Months In Orbit

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In this photo provided by NASA, Expedition 38 commander Oleg Kotov, of the Russian Federal Space Agency, gives a thumbs up shortly after the Russian Soyuz TMA-10M capsule carrying him, flight engineer Mike Hopkins of NASA, and flight engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy, landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday, March 11, 2014. The astronauts returned to Earth after spending nearly six months on the International Space Station. (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

MOSCOW (AP) — A Soyuz capsule carrying a U.S.-Russian crew returning after spending nearly six months on the International Space Station landed safely on the steppes of Kazakhstan.

NASA said in a live TV broadcast that the capsule carrying American Mike Hopkins and Russians Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy touched down as scheduled southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan at 9:24 a.m. local time Tuesday (0324 GMT, 11:24 p.m. EDT Monday). They spent 166 days in orbit on the space station.

After the Russian Soyuz TMA-10M capsule descended slowly by parachute onto the snow-covered steppes, Russian search and rescue vehicles quickly moved to the landing site for a quick recovery effort. Rescue crews who had maintained contact with the crew during their descent reported they were fine and in good spirits.

Heavy snowfalls and strong winds at the landing site had prompted Russian space officials to consider putting off the landing by a day, but they eventually decided to proceed with the original plan.

Koichi Wakata, the first Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut to command the space outpost, NASA's Rick Mastracchio and Russia's Mikhail Tyurin will remain aboard the space station until mid-May.

They will operate the station as a three-person crew for two weeks until the arrival of the next trio of crew members.

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