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Soyuz Space Capsule Lands In Kazakhstan Fog
A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying three crew from the International Space Station has safely returned to Earth after an "energetic and exciting" landing in thick fog.
The vessel was upright and almost hit its "bull's eye" target in Kazakhstan, a day after its originally scheduled touchdown was delayed by bad weather.
Nasa astronaut Kevin Ford and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin, as Expedition 34, had manned the $100bn (£66bn) orbital outpost since October. They had spent 144 days on the station.
The space capsule landed at 7:06am (local time) northeast of the town of Arkalyk.
Due to reduced visibility, it took a few minutes before helicopters with Russian search and recovery teams could locate the vessel after it came down.
Russian television showed footage of rescue workers opening the hatch of the capsule.
The crew were helped down a special slide and Mr Tarelkin pumped his fists as he sat on the edge of the craft.
The three smiling astronauts were then seated on special chairs and given blue thermal blankets.
A Nasa TV commentator said only two of 12 search and rescue helicopters were allowed to land at the touchdown site because of heavy cloud and fog.
So instead of being placed in an inflatable medical tent for checks, the trio were then taken to one of the helicopters for a two-hour trip to the staging site. The temperature at the time was well below freezing.
From there, Mr Ford would board a plane for Houston, Texas, and the Russians would be flown to Moscow.
"The landing was energetic and exciting," Russian TV showed Mr Novitskiy as saying.
And Nasa TV said: "Oleg Novitskiy reported to search and recovery teams that the crew is feeling good. Everything seems to be in order."
In preparation for their departure from the ISS, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield took the helm of the station on Wednesday.
He became the first Canadian to do so and only the second in the ISS's 12-year history who was not American or Russian.
Mr Hadfield will be part of a three-man skeleton crew until Nasa astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin arrive later this month.