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Three International Space Station Crewmen Land Safely In Kazakhstan

( [email protected] ) Dec 11, 2015 12:38 PM EST
Three International Space Station crew members landed in the snowy steppe to the northeast of the Kazakh city of Zhezkazgan on Friday, a NASA Television broadcast showed.
Ground personnel carry International Space Station (ISS) crew member Kjell Lindgren of the U.S. after landing near the town of Dzhezkazgan (Zhezkazgan), Kazakhstan, December 11, 2015. REUTERS/GCTC/Andrey Shelepin/Pool

ALMATY/CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Three International Space Station crew members landed in the snowy steppe to the northeast of the Kazakh city of Zhezkazgan on Friday, a NASA Television broadcast showed.

A capsule carrying NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Japan's Kimiya Yui was found by a search and rescue group whose four helicopters braved very strong winds and low clouds to reach the touchdown site.

Space Station Crew Member Return
A search and rescue team works on the site of landing of the Soyuz TMA-17M capsule carrying the International Space Station (ISS) crew of Kjell Lindgren of the U.S., Oleg Kononenko of Russia and Kimiya Yui of Japan near the town of Dzhezkazgan (Zhezkazgan), Kazakhstan, December 11, 2015. REUTERS/GCTC/Andrey Shelepin/Pool

Lindgren, Kononenko and Yui have been in orbit for nearly five months. Their replacements are slated to blast off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome on Tuesday.

Left aboard the $100 billion station are U.S. astronaut and commander Scott Kelly and Russian flight engineers Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov.

Space Station Crew Member Return
Ground personnel carry International Space Station (ISS) crew member Kimiya Yui of Japan after a landing near the town of Dzhezkazgan (Zhezkazgan), Kazakhstan, December 11, 2015. REUTERS/GCTC/Andrey Shelepin/Pool

Kelly and Kornienko are in the final months of a year-long mission, the longest stint in space since crews began living on the station in 2000. They are due to land on March 1.

Six Russian cosmonauts previously spent more than 300 days in space aboard the now-defunct Soviet station Mir. The longest flight lasted nearly 438 days.

Kelly and Kornienko's year-long mission is a trial run as the 15-nation station partnership begins planning for longer missions to the moon, Mars and other destinations beyond the space station.

Space Station Crew Member Return
Expedition 44 crew members, Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko (C) of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren (L) of NASA, and Flight Engineer Kimiya Yui (R) of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), wave farewell to family and friends as they depart the Cosmonaut Hotel to suit-up for their Soyuz launch to the International Space Station in Baikonur, Kazakhstan on July 22, 2015. REUTERS/Aubrey Gemignani/NASA/Handout via Reuters