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US and Russian astronauts make a picture-perfect landing in Kazakhstan

Astronauts just returned to Earth from the International Space Station, landing in Kazakhstan.
AP/NASA/Maxim Shipenkov
Spectacular landing that will freshen you up in the morning.
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Two Russian astronauts and one American returned to Earth this morning, Sept. 7, with a spectacular landing on the steppes of Kazakhstan.

Station commander Jeff Williams from the United States, and flight engineers Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka of Russia, had been on the International Space Station for 172 days, Reuters reports. They returned on the Soyuz TMA-20M space craft.

AP/NASA/Maxim Shipenkov
The three astronauts seen in the spacecraft shortly after landing.

The Soyuz is a Russian commuter vehicle between the ISS and Earth: It has a rocket that launches people and supplies into space, and brings them back in a parachute-equipped capsule. According to NASA’s description, the return trip usually takes just under 3.5 hours and lands in a designated area near the town of Zhezkazgan, in Kazakhstan.

Reuters/NASA/Maxim Shipenkov
Nice view during the morning commute, near Zhezkazgan (Dzhezkazgan), Kazakhstan.
AP/NASA/Bill Inglis
Landing soon.
AP/NASA/Maxim Shipenkov
Touch down.
Reuters/NASA/Bill Ingalis
View of the landing ground with search and rescue helicopters standing by.
AP/NASA/Bill Ingalls
A triumphant return.

Meanwhile, the International Space Station gives us a glimpse of the incredible view from the astronauts’ former home in space:

Jeff Williams, 58, set the US record for spending the most time in space, with a total of 534 days in orbit. He tweeted yesterday that he’d miss space, before boarding the Soyuz toward home:

Another crew will replace the returnees, and will be launched on Sept. 23 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

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