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Space station 'nauts in successful plonkdown to wrap Expedition 33

Female station commander and minions hit Kazakhstan

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Three 'nauts have made it home from the International Space Station in time for Christmas, landing in Kazakhstan early this morning.

Expedition 33 commander Suni Williams and flight engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Aki Hoshide landed northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk at 1.53am GMT after 127 days in space. The trio set off in a Soyuz capsule after undocking from the station's Rassvet module at 10.26pm.

Crewmates Kevin Ford, Evgeny Tarelkin and Oleg Novitskiy remained onboard the ISS. NASA 'naut Ford has taken over command to start Expedition 34.

Williams has spent 322 days in space during two missions on the orbiting station and strolled through space for a total of 50 hours and 40 minutes, including three spacewalks during Expedition 33.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency 'naut Hoshide was on his second trip into space, having also served as a mission specialist on space shuttle Discovery in 2008.

The longest serving 'naut on Expedition 33 was Russian Malenchenko, who was on his fifth flight, bringing him up to 642 days in space. He's now number seven on the all-time space endurance list; his first launch was in 1994 to the Russian space station Mir.

The ISS will run with a crew of just three for now until the second lot of Expedition 34 flight engineers - NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield, and cosmonaut Roman Romanenko - launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on December 19 and dock with the station two days later. ®

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