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ISS pair return to terra firma

Back home after five-and-a-half months aloft

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The International Space Station's Expedition 22 commander Jeff Williams and flight engineer Max Suraev returned to Earth earlier today, touching down in Kazakhstan aboard their Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft.

NASA reports that the pair landed at 12:24 GMT and were recovered by teams working in "frigid temperatures". The homecoming marks the end of five-and-a-half months aboard the orbiting outpost, during which they "supported two space shuttle flights and helped install the Tranquility module, the cupola viewing port and a second Russian docking module".

Suraev and Williams blasted off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome on 30 September last year. NASA notes that Williams has "now has logged 362 total days in space, placing him fourth on the all-time US list of long-duration space travelers*".

The ISS crew now comprises Expedition 23 Commander Oleg Kotov and flight engineers Soichi Noguchi and TJ Creamer. They'll be joined on 4 April by flight engineers Alexander Skvortsov, Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Mikhail Kornienko, who'll launch on 2 April from Baikonur. ®

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* Top of the list is Peggy Whitson, at 377 days.

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