A Soyuz space capsule carrying a three-man multinational crew touched down safely today on the southern steppes of Kazakhstan, bringing an end to their 193-day mission to the International Space Station. Around a dozen recovery helicopters zeroed into the vast uncultivated land mass, where NASA astronaut Donald Pettit, Russia's Oleg Kononenko and Dutchman Andre Kuipers landed in the Russian-made capsule. Russian space officials quickly surrounded the craft, which performed a perfect upright textbook landing, and erected ladders to begin the process of pulling out the astronauts.
Commenting on the landing, NASA TV reporter Rob Navias called it "a bullseye." Kononenko was the first to be extracted from the descent module. He looked pale and tired, but medical staff announced him healthy. Pettit, second out of the module, was heard to say: "It's good to be home." Pettit and his colleagues were part of the team that handled the arrival to the space station last month of the privately owned SpaceX Dragon capsule.