The following is an excerpt from Denise Chow | July 1, 2012 | MSNBC.com |
After half a year living on the International Space Station, three astronauts safely returned to Earth on Sunday aboard a Russian-built space capsule.
The Soyuz spacecraft landed in the Central Asian steppes of Kazakhstan at 4:14 a.m. ET, returning NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers to their home planet.
“Everything is good, we feel great,” Kononenko radioed Russia’s Mission Control Center just before landing.
The spacefliers undocked from the space station several hours earlier in their Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft to begin the journey home. They landed upright under a blue sky dotted with some white clouds in Kazakhstan, where the local time was Sunday afternoon. Live video tracked the Soyuz’s descent at the end of its parachute, right down to the ground.
Veterans return from frontier
Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers arrived at the orbiting outpost in December 2011. All three had flown previous missions to the space station, making them a crew of veteran spacefliers.
In a blog post describing his final day in space, Pettit reflected on the impact of his months-long mission, and encouraged humanity to keep pushing the boundaries of space exploration.
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