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Aki Hoshide
Maxim Shipenkov  /  AP
Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide smiles after landing in a Soyuz capsule outside the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, on Monday, Nov. 19. Hoshide along with NASA's Sunita Williams, and Russian astronaut Yury Malenchenko touched down in the dark, chilly expanses of central Kazakhstan onboard a Soyuz capsule Monday after a 125-day stay at the International Space Station.
By
updated 11/19/2012 1:01:38 AM ET 2012-11-19T06:01:38

Three astronauts touched down in the dark, chilly expanses of central Kazakhstan onboard a Soyuz capsule Monday after a 125-day stay at the International Space Station.

NASA's Sunita Williams, Russian astronaut Yury Malenchenko and Aki Hoshide of Japan's JAXA space agency landed at 07:56 a.m. local time (0156 GMT) northeast of the town of Arkalyk.

Video: Soyuz trio touches down in Kazakhstan

Eight helicopters rushed search-and-recovery crew to assist the crew, whose capsule did not parachute onto the exact planned touchdown site due to a minimal delay in procedures.

With the departure of the outgoing crew, NASA astronaut Kevin Ford has taken command of the space station, where he remains with Russian colleagues Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin. They will be joined next month by NASA's Tom Marshburn, Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency, and Russia's Roman Romanenko.

The Soyuz is the only means for international astronauts to reach the orbiting laboratory since the decommissioning of the U.S. shuttle fleet in 2011.

Yuri Malenchenko,Sunita Williams, Aki Hoshide
Maxim Shipenkov  /  AP
International Space Station crew members Russian astronaut Yury Malenchenko, center, U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams, right, and Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide, left, rest shortly after landing in a Soyuz capsule outside the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, on Monday, Nov. 19. The three astronauts touched down in the dark, chilly expanses of central Kazakhstan onboard a Soyuz capsule Monday after a 125-day stay at the International Space Station.

Williams, Malenchenko and Hoshide undocked from the space station Sunday at 1023 GMT to begin their return to earth.

Around 28 minutes before touchdown, the three modules of the Soyuz craft separated, leaving the 2.1-meter tall capsule to begin its entry into orbit.

A series of parachutes deployed to bring the capsule to gentle floating speed.

Winds pulled the descent module on its side in the snowy terrain, which is a common occurrence, but the crew was nonetheless swiftly hoisted out by the recovery crew and lifted onto reclining chairs and swaddled in blankets to shield them from the 12 Fahrenheit degree (-11 Celsius degree) temperature.

The chairs are designed to afford the astronauts comfortable acclimatization after months of living in gravity-free conditions.

"For me, everything was very good," a smiling Williams told recovery staff, speaking in Russian.

Malenchenko has now spent 642 days in space, making him the sixth most experienced space traveler in history.

Williams has a spent a total of 322 days in space over two missions. She and Hoshide conducted a crucial spacewalk earlier this month to work on a leaky radiator system outside the space station.

Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft is seen shortly after it landed with the International Space Station crew near the town of Arkalyk in northern Kazakhstan
NASA / Bill Ingalls  /  Reuters
The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft is seen shortly after it landed with the International Space Station (ISS) crew of Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams, near the town of Arkalyk in northern Kazakhstan on Nov. 19.

That took Williams' total cumulative spacewalk time to 50 hours and 40 minutes — a record for a female astronaut.

NASA says the returning expedition conducted a range of scientific experiments while at the space station, included testing radiation levels on the orbiting outpost, assessing the effects of microgravity on the spinal cord, and investigating melting glaciers, seasonal changes and human impacts on the ecosystem.

The crew was to be taken to the town of Kostanai, from where Williams and Hoshide would board a Gulfstream jet for a trip to Houston, Texas, while Malenchenko was to return to a Russian space facility outside Moscow.

NASA footage showed celebrating recovery workers at the landing site erecting a sign marking the successful touchdown.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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