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Space station crew members land

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Soyuz spacecraft returns to Earth
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: One astronaut waves a sign after landing that says, "Hi Mom!"
  • The spacecraft lands in an open field dotted with patches of snow
  • A NASA spokesman says the Soyuz made a "bullseye landing"
  • The crew members smile as recovery teams help them out of the vessel
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(CNN) -- A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying three crew members from the International Space Station landed in Kazakhstan Friday morning, the U.S. space agency NASA said.

The craft made a "bullseye landing" in an open field dotted with a few patches of snow at 10:46 a.m. Friday (11:46 p.m. ET Thursday), NASA spokesman Rob Navius said during live coverage of the landing on the agency's channel.

NASA astronauts Cmdr. Doug Wheelock and flight engineer Shannon Walker were aboard the capsule, along with cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, the Soyuz commander.

"Everything is proceeding in excellent shape. This is one of the quickest recovery procedures that I have ever been involved in," Navius said.

Yurchikhin smiled as recovery crew members wiped his brow and covered him with a blanket. Minutes later, the recovery team extracted Walker from the vessel and presented her with a bouquet of flowers.

When Navius asked Wheelock about his return to Earth, "he smiled and said it was everything and more than he expected," the spokesman said.

The astronaut later waved a sign before NASA's cameras that said, "Hi Mom!"

In a ceremony Wednesday, Wheelock handed over command of the space station to astronaut Scott Kelly. The official change-of-command occurred when the Soyuz departed and headed back to Earth, NASA said.

After Friday's landing, Yurchikhin has logged 371 total days in space, NASA said. Wheelock logged 178 and Walker logged 163, the agency said.

According to NASA, a Soyuz space capsule took the first crew to the orbiting laboratory in November 2000. After the February 2003 Columbia accident, the Soyuz became the means of transportation for crew members going to or returning from the International Space Station.

 
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