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U.S. astronaut, Russian cosmonauts arrive on Earth

By Chelsea J. Carter and Andy Rose, CNN
March 16, 2013 -- Updated 1444 GMT (2244 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NASA: The Soyuz spacecraft has returned to Earth from the International Space Station
  • One American and two Russians will land just before midnight
  • Russian Soyuz space modules have proven very reliable
  • It is the standard transportation mode to the ISS after a deadly space shuttle crash

(CNN) -- The Soyuz capsule returned Friday night landing in northeast Kazakhstan bringing an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts back from a journey to the International Space Station, NASA said.

The vessel capsule needed less than three and a half hours to descend to Earth.

The return, initially scheduled for Thursday, was postponed because of inclement weather at the landing site northeast of the Russian town of Arkalyk, NASA said.

The American expedition commander, Kevin Ford, and Russian Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin spent 142 days on the station after launching into space on October 23, 2012.

Kevin Ford on space mission with Russia

The crew members spent their unexpected extra day in space reviewing undocking and landing procedures as well as working with the remaining crew members on the handover of duties, NASA said.

Ford passed the helm of the space station to Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency. Hadfield and his crewmates, U.S. astronaut Tom Marshburn and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, will oversee the space station until the arrival of the next crew in two weeks, according to NASA.

The journey up to the station takes longer than the return trip to Earth, NASA said. The Soyuz needs a total of two days to catch up with the ISS in its orbit.

NASA TV planned to broadcast the undocking and landing live.

More space and science news on CNN's Light Years blog

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