ISS 'naut trio return to snowy terra firma

Soyuz capsule touches down in chilly Kazakhstan

Kjell Lindgren of NASA (left), Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos, center) and Kimiya Yui
Back on Earth: Kjell Lindgren, Oleg Kononenko and Kimiya Yui. Pic: NASA

NASA's Kjell Lindgren, cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are back on terra firma following their departure from the International Space Station earlier today.

The Soyuz capsule departs the ISS. Pic: Scott Kelley

The Soyuz TMA-17M departs the ISS. Pic: Scott Kelly

The trio's Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft undocked from the ISS at 09:49 GMT, and touched down in darkness north-east of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, shortly after 13:00 GMT. Poor weather including strong winds and snow at the landing site meant the three were briefly given a medical once-over on the ground before being put into separate helicopters and flown to Dzhezkazgan for full post-landing medical checks.

Lindgren gives a thumbs-up shortly after landing

Thumbs-up: Lindgren shortly after extraction from the Soyuz capsule

The 'nauts blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome back in July and spent 141 days aboard the orbiting outpost as flight engineers on Expedition 45.

It was Lindgren and Yui's first time in space, as noted by commander Scott Kelly in the above tweet, but having completed his third trip to the ISS, Kononenko has now enjoyed a total of 533 days in space. He was previously on the station as flight engineer on 2008's Expedition 17, and later as commander of Expedition 31 in 2011-12.

Still on board the station are Kelly and cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov. They're due to be joined shortly by Brit astronaut Tim Peake, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and NASA's Tim Kopra, who are gearing up to launch from Baikonur on 15 December.

Tim Peake, Yuri Malenchenko and Tim Kopra

Tim Peake, Yuri Malenchenko and Tim Kopra

The full crew of six will form Expedition 46. ®


In an interview on NASA TV earlier today, commander Scott Kelly confirmed that there is a Christmas tree somewhere "in the attic" of the ISS, which he would dig out. However, it's uncertain if the Cygnus supply spacecraft, which arrived at the station earlier this week, is indeed packing some advanced space Christmas crackers.

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