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Russian Soyuz Spacecraft Returns 3-Man Crew to Earth

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft has returned to earth, carrying a three-man crew that included an American businessman and scientist who paid for an eight-day stay on the International Space Station.

The Soyuz touched down, on schedule, out on the plains of Kazakhstan and was quickly located by Russian ground crews.

Soon afterward, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalyov, American astronaut John Phillips and businessman Gregory Olsen were greeted as they emerged from the capsule.

Mr. Krikalyov and Mr. Philips spent the past six months on the ISS, as part of its normal rotation.

Mr. Olsen is a scientist and electrical engineer who runs a firm in Princeton, New Jersey, that makes electronic sensors for military and civilian use.

Some call Mr. Olsen the world's third paying space tourist, following American Dennis Tito in 2001 and South African Mark Shuttleworth in 2002.

Mr. Olsen paid $20 million for the trip, but he says he was able to conduct various experiments while on board.

He spent eight days on the station, conducting various experiments, including one that tested how microbes are affected by long-term space flight.

The 59-year-old was also scheduled to test some of his company's sensors during his stay.

American William McArthur and Russian Valery Tokarev will remain on the ISS for the next six months.

They are scheduled to take two space walks and work on many scientific experiments.

The Soyuz remains the only active link to bring both crews and cargo to the ISS since NASA grounded all shuttles after the disintegration of the Columbia shuttle in 2003 that killed the seven astronauts on board.

The shuttle Discovery did go to the station in July, but problems with its insulation means no shuttles will be able to go into space anytime soon.

There have been no major mishaps with the Soyuz, in more than 30 years.

However, the Russian space agency did suffer a blow, several days ago, when two space rockets failed to perform properly.

One was carrying a European science satellite that broke apart and fell into the Arctic Ocean.