A three-astronaut crew with members from the United States, Russia, and Japan made a parachute landing in Kazakhstan after a three-and-a-half hour journey from the International Space Station late Saturday night.
Entering a Russian Soyuz capsule and leaving the ISS at 8:35 p.m. ET Saturday night, Russian station commander Anatoly Ivanishin, Kate Rubins of NASA and Takuya Onishi from Japan landed at 11:58 p.m. ET. Having completed their 115-day mission to install a parking spot for commercial space taxis and become the first to use a DNA sequencer in space, the crew left behind three astronauts who arrived at the station last week.
According to the CBC, the capsule landed near Dzhezkazgan on the treeless Central Asian steppes.
“It was closely tracked by helicopters as it wafted through partly cloudy skies under a parachute marked in red and white concentric circles,” the CBC wrote. “The craft landed upright, which made the extraction of the astronauts quicker than when capsules land on their sides.”
Sitting on the steppes after landing on earth, the astronauts remained in their capsule seats as they readjusted to earth’s gravitational forces after the four months of living in weightless conditions. As is standard procedure with space missions, the astronauts were taken to a medical tent for examinations.
The crew-members left behind at the ISS were only able to spend a week with the returning astronauts, taking part in training missions and a change of command ceremony at the station on Friday.
“I’m kind of reluctant to close the hatch,” Ivanishin said during the ceremony. “The time is very special here … I didn’t have time to know what’s going on our planet, and maybe it’s for the better. On the space station, you live in a very friendly, very good environment.”
Ivanishin transitioned control over the station to NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, who reached the ISS along with Russian crew-members Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko on Oct. 21. The new crew will work alone, but will welcome three new members next month when another mission commences.