Record-breaking Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk has returned to Earth after spending six months aboard the International Space Station. A Russian spacecraft carrying Thirsk and two other astronauts landed in Kazakhstan, in central Asia, after deploying parachutes to slow its descent.
The Soyuz module landed upright about 80 kilometres northeast of the town of Arkalyk in northern Kazakhstan at 10:15 a.m. Moscow time or 2:15 a.m. ET.
Braving icy weather, Russian recovery crews extracted cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, Thirsk, and finally Belgian space station commander Frank De Winne from the module.
"The landing was very soft; we were lucky not to have any wind," Romanenko said after leaving the capsule. "Everything went quite nicely; there were no problems whatsoever."
As is the custom with space travellers returning on Soyuz vehicles, all three were carried on stretchers to a nearby all-terrain vehicle. The cold weather grounded the helicopters normally used to recover landing astronauts. This was the first December landing of a Soyuz capsule since 1990.
The three astronauts were driven to Arkalyk and were expected to be flown to Star City in Moscow later Tuesday.