US-Russian Soyuz crew safely back
MOSCOW: Two US astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut made it safely back to earth early on Sunday after rescue teams lost track of their Russian Soyuz craft in the Kazakh steppe for several hours.
Nikolai Budarin and his US crewmates Kenneth Bowersox and Donald Pettit, who had blasted off from the International Space Station on the Soyuz TMA-1 earlier on Sunday, were to have been met after landing at 6:07 am Moscow time.
However, with the capsule landing some 440 kilometres away from the preset destination, rescue teams could not locate the spacecraft and its crew for more than two hours, officials told reporters in the Kazakh capital.
Finally at 10:25 Moscow time , helicopters carrying rescue and medical personnel reached the remote spot in the centre of Kazakhstan, where the three crew were waiting outside their capsule. A rescue airplane finally obtained visual contact with the capsule at 8:21 Moscow time, giving the search teams the precise location of the crew.
Meanwhile, the astronauts had managed to open the hatch and get out of the vessel an hour and a half after the landing. —AFP