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Astronauts return from ISS aboard Soyuz, land safely in Kazakhstan

By Brooks Hays
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The Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold of NASA, along with Flight Engineer and Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on October 4, 2018. NASA Photo by Bill Ingalls/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/5643f58901b0eb1d20b2d67b04741077/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
The Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold of NASA, along with Flight Engineer and Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on October 4, 2018. NASA Photo by Bill Ingalls/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 4 (UPI) -- The International Space Station is a bit less crowded today. A trio of space station crew members returned to Earth on Wednesday.

NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, as well as Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, touched down safely in Kazakhstan at 7:44 a.m. ET, 5:44 p.m. local time.

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The three members of Expedition 56 returned home inside the same Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft that delivered the other half of the Expedition 56 crew in June.

Feustel, Arnold and Artemyev spent 197 days in space. During their time aboard ISS, the crew members helped conduct a variety of science experiments, made repairs to the space station and docked five cargo deliveries.

The two NASA astronauts also conducted outreach from 250 miles above Earth's surface.

"Both Feustel and Arnold participated in dozens of educational downlink events while in space as part of NASA's Year of Education on Station, reaching more than 200,000 students in 29 states," according to NASA.

Feustel and Arnold were also able to escape the confines of the space station. The duo participated in three spacewalks, during which they upgraded camera technology that will help astronauts more precisely monitor the docking process of future commercial crew vehicles.

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Back on the space station, Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency is now in command. Gerst, as well as Serena Aunon-Chancellor of NASA and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos, comprise Expedition 57.

The crew will grow to five next week. NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are scheduled to travel to ISS on Oct. 11.

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