Tuesday 16 July 2019

Three astronauts return to Earth after six months aboard International Space Station

Expedition 59 NASA astronaut Anne McClain is helped out of the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft
Picture: NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS
Expedition 59 NASA astronaut Anne McClain is helped out of the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft Picture: NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Three astronauts have safely returned to Earth after spending more than six months aboard the International Space Station.

The Soyuz capsule with astronauts from Canada, Russia and the United States landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan at 8.47am local time (1.47am Irish time) on Tuesday, less than a minute ahead of the scheduled time, after a three-and-a-half-hour flight from the orbiting lab.

Two of the astronauts had completed their maiden flights - Anne McClain of the United States and David Saint-Jacques of Canada.

The expedition commander Oleg Kononenko of Russia has ended his fourth space mission. All three spent 204 days in space.

Americans Nick Hague and Christina Koch and Russia's Alexey Ovchinin remain aboard the space station.

A Russian Soyuz MS-11 space capsule descends about 150 kilometers (90 miles) south-east of the Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Tuesday.
A Russian Soyuz MS-11 space capsule descends about 150 kilometers (90 miles) south-east of the Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Tuesday.
A Russian Soyuz MS-11 space capsule descends about 150 km (90 miles) south east of the Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Three astronauts safely returned to Earth on Tuesday after spending more than six months aboard the International Space Station. Picture: Alexander Nemenov/Pool Photo via AP
A fire of the Russian Soyuz MS-11 space capsule breaking engines goes out as it lands about 150 km (90 miles) south east of the Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan Alexander Nemenov/Pool Photo via AP
The Soyuz MS-11 capsule carrying the International Space Station (ISS) crew of NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, lands in a remote area outside Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan Picture: Alexander Nemenov/Pool via REUTERS
The Soyuz MS-11 capsule carrying the International Space Station (ISS) crew of NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, lands in a remote area outside Zhezkazgan Picture: Alexander Nemenov/Pool via REUTERS
A search and rescue team approaches the Soyuz MS-11 capsule shortly after the landing Alexander Nemenov/Pool Photo via AP
A Russian Soyuz MS-11 space capsule stands on the ground after the landing about 150 km (90 miles) south east of the Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan Picture: Alexander Nemenov/Pool Photo via AP
A search and rescue team works on the site of landing of the Soyuz MS-11 capsule after the landing about 150 km (90 miles) south east of the Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan Picture: Alexander Nemenov/Pool Photo via AP
A Russian Soyuz MS-11 space capsule stands on the ground after the landing about 150 km (90 miles) south east of the Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan Picture: Alexander Nemenov/Pool Photo via AP
Russian space agency rescue team help Russian cosmonaut Оleg Kononenko, center, to get from the capsule shortly after the landing of the Russian Soyuz MS-11 space capsule about 150 km (80 miles) south east of the Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan Alexander Nemenov/Pool Photo via AP
Soyuz MS-11 crew member, NASA astronaut Anne McClain, undergoes a medical check Picture: Alexander Nemenov/Pool via REUTERS
Expedition 59 crew member Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos Picture: NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS
Expedition 59 Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques is carried to a medical tent Picture: NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS
Expedition 59 astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is helped out of the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft Picture: NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS
Expedition 59 NASA astronaut Anne McClain is helped out of the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft Picture: NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS

Space veteran Mr Kononenko, who was the first one to be extracted from the capsule, looked visibly tired and pale.

Ms McClain and Mr Saint-Jacques were more energetic and gave a thumbs-up to the recovery team who greeted the three with applause.

The astronauts were put on camping chairs in the sun just by the capsule for some respite and initial medical checks.

When asked by a reporter on site if he liked the weather, Mr Kononenko said he was "happy to see any kind of weather" after spending over 200 days in space.

The crew is expected to be taken to a local airport before flying to their home bases.

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