Dec. 20 (UPI) -- A Soyuz capsule with three crewmembers returned to Earth on Thursday after a six-month stay in the International Space Station.
NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, German astronaut Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev touched down safely in snowy Kazakhstan at 12:02 a.m. EST, according to NASA. They left the space station at 8:40 p.m.
They spent 197 days in space, circling the globe 3,152 times and covering 83.3 million miles. The temperature was in single digits upon their landing in the remote area.
"The Soyuz MS-09 stuck the landing on the eve of the 50th anniversary of humankind's first voyage to the moon," NASA TV commentator Rob Navias said during a live webcast of the landing as reported by Space.com.
He was referring to the Apollo 8 mission that launched on Dec. 21, 1968, and four days later circled the Moon on Christmas Eve.
Experiment highlights included investigations into new cancer treatment methods and algae growth in space.
The Soyuz capsule was the same one that brought them to the International Space Station in June.
Six weeks later, a mission was aborted with two crewmates -- NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. The Soyuz rocket failed and the crew survived the emergency landing.
With the Soyuz missions temporarily grounded, the ISS crew was short-handed for about seven weeks.
NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques arrived on a Soyuz capsule on Dec. 3.
For the last 16 days of her mission, it was the only time U.S. astronauts on a mission both were women.
It was the first flight for Auñón-Chancellor and Prokopyev, and the second for Gerst.
Nick Hague and Christina Koch of NASA and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos will launch Feb. 28 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.