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Soyuz spacecraft returns to Earth from International Space Station

Nov. 10, 2013 at 10:53 PM   |   Comments

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MOSCOW, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- A Russian Soyuz spacecraft brought three International Space Station crew members and the Olympic torch safely back to Earth Monday morning, NASA said.

The Expedition 37 crew -- commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of Russia and flight engineers Karen Nyberg of the United States and Luca Parmitano of Italy -- landed in Kazakhstan after spending 166 days in space during which time they traveled 70.3 million miles while orbiting the Earth more than 2,600 times.

The Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft landed on the steppe southeast of Dzhezkazgan at 8:49 a.m. Monday, Kazakh time, NASA said in a release posted to its website.

The U.S. space agency said a Russian recovery team and NASA personnel reached the landing site by helicopter soon after to help the crew and conduct health assessments.

The Olympic torch brought back from the space station will be used to light the Olympic flame at the Feb. 7 opening ceremonies of the 2013 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

The torch arrived at the space station Thursday aboard the Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft carrying three new crew members -- Expedition 38 flight engineers Mikhail Tyurin of Russia, Rick Mastracchio of the United States and Koichi Wakata of Japan.

NASA said the arrival of trio was the first time since October 2009 that nine people have served together aboard the space station without the presence of a space shuttle. The station is now under the command of Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov. Flight engineers Sergey Ryazansky and Mike Hopkins of the United States round out the current station crew.

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