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U. S., Russian Soyuz Crew Safely Back on Earth

Three U. S. and Russian astronauts descended safely to Earth aboard a Soyuz  spacecraft late Sunday, following a 125-day mission to the International Space Station.

Helicopter born Russian recovery forces quickly greeted U. S. astronaut Joe Acaba and cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin, following their touchdown at 10:53 p.m., EDT  in Kazakhstan, north of Arkalyk.

All three men appeared to be in good spirits, according to NASA spokeman Josh Bylery, who was among the recovery forces.

NASA's Sunita Williams becomes second woman to command the International Space Station. Photo Credit/NASA

As the Soyuz capsule carrying the three men departed the 15-nation International Space Station at 7:09 p.m., EDT, command of the orbiting science laboratory transferred from Padalka to NASA astronaut Sunita Williams.

During a 2007 mission to the station, Williams established the current world’s record of 195 days for continuous flight in space by a woman. She joins NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson as the only women to command the orbital outpost.

Williams remains aboard the station for the start of Expedition 33 with flight engineers Yuri Malenchenko, ofRussia, and Akihiko Hoshide, ofJapan.  They’re scheduled to be joined byU. S. astronaut Kevin Ford and cosmomauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin on Oct. 17. The newcomers will lift off two days earlier from the Baikonur Cosmodrome inKazakhstanin a Soyuz spacecraft.

The returning astronauts’ tour of duty was was marked by the first U.S. commercial re-supply mission,  carried out by the SpaceX Dragon in May and the August spacewalks by Padalka and Malenchenko and Williams and Hoshide. The Russian excursion prepared the station for the eventual arrival of a new Russian science module.

The station crew participated in or supervised between 100 and 200 multi-national science experiments and engineering demonstrations.

Acaba, Padalka and Revin were greeted quickly after their landing by helicopter born Russian recovery forces and NASA medical personnel and managers.

The recovery forces were to fly them toKostanay,Kazakhstan. There, they will part company after a welcoming ceremony and medical checks. Acaba was to board a NASA jet bound for Houston,Tex., and NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Padalka and Revin were to fly to  to Star City, Russia, aboard a second transport.




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