Astronauts return to Earth after six months in space

A capsule carrying International Space Station (ISS) crew astronauts Tim Peake, Timothy Kopra and Yuri Malenchenko safely lands in Kazakhstan after they spent 186 days in orbit.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

From L: The International Space Station (ISS) crew members Tim Peake of Britain, Yuri Malenchenko of Russia and Tim Kopra of the US rest in chairs shortly after landing near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on June 18, 2016.

Three astronauts landed back on Earth on Saturday after completing a six-month mission on the International Space Station (ISS).

Tim Peake, the first British astronaut on the ISS, Russia's Yury Malenchenko and American Tim Kopra parachuted down to the Kazakh steppe in their Soyuz capsule at 0915 GMT after spending 186 days in orbit.

The Soyuz TMA-19M capsule carrying International Space Station (ISS) crew members descends beneath a parachute just before landing near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on June 18, 2016.

Peake, Malenchenko and Kopra had blasted off into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in December.

Video footage from the landing site, southeast of the Kazakh city of Zhezkazgan, showed medics attending to the men, who appeared to be in good condition.

Immediately after landing, Peake was examined by flight surgeons. He told reporters that he was enjoying "the smells of Earth" and fresh air, a stark contrast to the artificial atmosphere and high temperature inside the capsule.

"It was incredible. The best ride I've ever been on," Peake said. "It has just been fantastic, from start to finish."

Their descent lasted approximately 7 hours. At around 0215 GMT, they bid farewell to NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin, who remain aboard the ISS. Their Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft then undocked from the ISS.

Ground personnel carry International Space Station (ISS) crew member Tim Peake of Britain shortly after landing near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on June 18, 2016.

Former army major Peake, who turned 44 aboard the station, was on a mission for the European Space Agency (ESA). He is the first astronaut to wear a Union Jack flag on his arm. The first Briton in space was Helen Sharman, who travelled on a Soviet spacecraft for eight days in 1991.

"I'm going to miss the view," he said, referring to panorama of planet Earth visible from the ISS.

Peake's mission has generated great excitement in Britain, where the government unveiled an ambitious new space policy on the eve of his departure for the International Space Station.

In April, Peake ran a marathon in space in record time, strapped into a treadmill while thousands took part in the London Marathon back on Earth. He managed to achieve the fastest ever marathon in space by marking a time of three hours, 35 minutes and 21 seconds, setting a Guinness World Record.

The space mission, called Principia, included a number of scientific experiments such as testing the use of nitric oxide gas as a tool to monitor lung inflammation.

With this latest mission, Russian space veteran Malenchenko has spent a total of 827 days in orbit, according to Russian space agency Roscosmos. He ranks second for the record number of days spent in space, trailing behind his compatriot Gennady Padalka who has spent a total of 878 days in orbit.

The next launch of astronauts from the Baikonur cosmodrome is scheduled on July 7. It will take Anatoly Ivanishin of Russia, Kate Rubins of the United States and Takuya Onishi of Japan to the ISS.

TRTWorld and agencies