Capsule Returns 3 to Earth
Astronauts had spent 165 days in space
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2011 10:01 AM CST
A helicopter crew gets ready at Arkalyk airfield in preparation for the recovery mission of the Soyuz spacecraft near Arkalyk in northern Kazakhstan, early Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011.   (AP Photo/Shamil Zhumatov, pool)
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(Newser) – A Russian Soyuz capsule made touchdown in the frigid steppes of Kazakhstan this morning, safely returning the first three astronauts to Earth since NASA wound down its shuttle program in July. American Michael Fossum, Russian Sergei Volkoy, and Satoshi Furukawa of Japan emerged from the craft after having spent 165 days in space, reports the AP. All three are in good health, though the AP notes that Furukawa looked "visibly exhausted."

American Dan Burbank and Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin are still aboard the International Space Station, and are slated to return in March. Another launch next month will add three astronauts to the ISS' ranks.

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