Space crew lands safely

“The TMA module has landed,” an announcer at Mission Control outside Moscow said to applause from officials and relatives, relieved after an initial attempt to return from the orbital outpost was foiled by an equipment problem on Friday.

Space officials said the capsule landed upright, on time and on target near Arkalyk on the central Kazakh steppe. Swooping down beneath parachutes, it kicked up a cloud of dust as it hit after firing rockets to cushion the landing.

Nasa TV showed technicians crouching over the hatch of the gumdrop-shaped capsule, its nose scorched by the heat of re-entry, and helping Soyuz commander Alexander Skvortsov out in his spacesuit.

“I feel fantastic. The landing was soft and smooth,” he said.

Nasa astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson was next out, smiling as she was carried to an armchair at the landing site and covered with a blue blanket.

As cosmonaut Mikhail Korniyenko was extracted from the hatch in the top of the cramped capsule, Dyson chatted on a satellite phone.

Skvortsov, Dyson and Korniyenko spent nearly six months aboard the International Space Station, arriving on April 4 in the same Soyuz TMA-18 that brought them back to Earth.

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