ALMATY, Kazakhstan — The first Canadian astronaut to command the International Space Station landed safely in Kazakhstan with two crewmates on Tuesday, wrapping up a five-month mission aboard the International Space Station.
A Soyuz capsule under an orange parachute raised clouds of dust as it ignited an engine to cushion its landing some 150 km (90 miles) southeast of the town of Zhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan at 8:31 a.m. (0231 GMT), Russian television showed in a live broadcast.
"The crew are feeling well," Mission Control outside Moscow said in a radio transmission, as several search and rescue helicopters hovered around the capsule on a bright morning.
The three astronauts were shown smiling, seated in semi-reclined chairs and covered with blue thermal blankets, waiting for medical tests after their landing.
About 3-1/2 hours earlier, space station commander Chris Hadfield, NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko departed the $100-billion orbital outpost as it sailed 255 miles (410 kilometers) over eastern Mongolia.
"It's just been an extremely fulfilling and amazing experience," Hadfield radioed to flight controllers on Monday.
The mission included an impromptu spacewalk on Saturday to fix an ammonia coolant leak that had cropped up two days earlier. Without the repair, NASA likely would have had to cut back the station's science experiments to save power. The cooling system dissipates heat from electronics on the station's solar-powered wing panels.
During a 5-1/2-hour spacewalk, Marshburn and Chris Cassidy, who remains aboard the station, replaced a suspect ammonia coolant pump, apparently resolving the leak. Engineers will monitor the system for several weeks to make sure there are no additional problems.
Hadfield made history on Monday when he released the first music video shot in space, turning an astronaut into an overnight music sensation with his zero-gravity version of David Bowie's hit "Space Oddity."
The mission of Hadfield, Marshburn, and Romanenko, who blasted off 146 days ago, was the 35th expedition aboard the space station, a permanently staffed laboratory for biomedical, materials science, technology demonstrations, and other research.
Their replacements are due to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on May 28. Until then, a skeleton crew commanded by Pavel Vinogradov and including NASA astronaut Cassidy and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin will keep the station operating.
The crew's return to Earth comes on the 40th anniversary of the launch of the first U.S. space station, Skylab. Three crews lived and worked on the relatively short-lived Skylab between May 1973 and February 1974.
The project helped NASA prepare for in-flight research aboard the space shuttles and the International Space Station, which was constructed in orbit beginning in 1998.
The outpost, which is scheduled to remain in orbit until at least 2020, has been permanently staffed since November 2000.
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