Soyuz with three astronauts lands in Kazakhstan

November 22, 2011 - 12:00 AM

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying three astronauts returning from the International Space Station touched down safely in the snow-covered steppes of Kazakhstan early Tuesday morning.

NASA astronaut Michael Fossum, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov and Satoshi Furukawa of Japan's JAXA space agency landed at the break of dawn some 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of the town of Arkalyk at 8:26 a.m. (0226 GMT) after spending 165 days in space.

The landing at steppe was close to its target point.

NASA spokesman Josh Byerly said in the NASA television broadcast that the recovery operation was swift despite the freezing weather and strong wind.

Video from the site showed the Soyuz capsule, blackened by the intense heat of re-entry, lying on its side as the astronauts were extracted.

The three men looked well and smiling, although Furukawa looked visibly exhausted. They were seated in chairs and wrapped in warm blankets to help them get adjusted to gravity after spending four months in space.

Valery Lyndin, spokesman for the Russian Mission Control Center, said all three astronauts are in good health.

NASA's Dan Burbank and Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin remain onboard the International Space Station and are due to return to Earth in March. They arrived at the station on Wednesday. A launch next month will take the station back to its normal six-person crew.