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Soyuz Spacecraft Lands Safely in Kazakhstan


A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying a crew from the international space station touched down uneventfully Monday in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz mission is scheduled to be the last flight to the space station before the U.S. space shuttle resumes flight in late May.

The Soyuz spacecraft, carrying a Russian, an American and an Italian, landed as expected in central Kazakhstan near the town of Arkalyk at 22:08 Universal Time after a planned separation from the international space station.

The announcement was made in English by a translator at mission control in Russia. "They have landed and very good. From the helicopter. See them? They are on the ground so they are fine."

The Soyuz capsule was met by waiting helicopters carrying a recovery team and medical personnel.

The weather at the landing site has been cold and damp, and the ground muddy, causing Russian space officials to worry that the touch down could run into problems. But to their relief, everything went smoothly for what's expected to be the final Soyuz mission to the space station.

Russian Soyuz spacecraft have been the only way of getting astronauts to and from the international space station since the Columbia space shuttle disaster two years ago. The Columbia disintegrated upon reentering earth's atmosphere on February 1, 2003, killing all seven crew members.

Remaining behind on the international space station are Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev and American John Phillips, who will welcome the next replacement crew.

That crew is scheduled to lift off on the U.S. Space Shuttle Discovery on May 22.