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3 space station astronauts safely return to Earth


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MOSCOW (AP) — A three-person crew from the International Space Station landed safely Friday in the snowy steppes of Kazakhstan.

The U.S. space agency's Kjell Lindgren, Russia's Oleg Kononenko and Kimiya Yui of Japan returned to Earth in their Soyuz TMA-17M capsule after 141 days in space. They touched down on schedule at 7:12 p.m. local time (1312 GMT) about 120 kilometers ( 75 kilometers) northeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

Kononenko reported to the Russian Mission Control that the crew was feeling fine as the capsule was descending by parachute in thick clouds before landing softly in darkness on the wind-swept steppes. Russian rescue teams in four helicopters arrived quickly at the landing site to help the crew get out of the capsule, which rested on its side in the snow.

Because of the cold temperatures and strong winds, the crew was quickly flown to Dzhezkazgan after a brief inspection by doctors. In better weather, the crew undergoes a post-flight medical check-up in a tent at the landing site.

Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA and crewmates Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of Russia remain on the station. They will be joined by three new crew members next Tuesday: NASA's Tim Kopra, Russia's Yuri Malenchenko and the European Space Agency's Tim Peake.

Kelly and Kornienko are on the first joint U.S.-Russian one-year mission at the space station.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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