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ISS crew to return to Earth early

HOUSTON, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Crew members on the International Space Station will return to Earth early because of an international summit being held near their landing site, officials say.

Two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut, wrapping up a five-month tour on the space station, are scheduled to land their Russian Soyuz capsule on the central steppes of Kazakhstan on Nov. 25, four days earlier than originally planned.

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The landing had been set for Nov. 30, but Kazakh officials decided to restrict air traffic before the start of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, set for Dec. 1-2.

"Kazakh officials asked our Russian partners if they could make the adjustment to avoid conflicts with the conference," NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries told SPACE.com.

"There's some preparation work that's going to have to be changed a little bit, and some maintenance work that requires additional crew members will be shifted," she said.

After the departure of NASA astronauts Shannon Walker and Douglas Wheelock and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, the space station will be down to a three-person crew until mid-December, when Catherine Coleman, Paolo Nespoli and Dmitri Kondratyev arrive to round out the outpost's Expedition 26 crew.

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