Space station crew returns to Earth

Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls.
Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

A three-member space crew returned to Earth just after sunrise Thursday in Kazakhstan, descending through a sun-splashed sky under an orange and white parachute before dipping through fog for a rocket-cushioned touchdown on the snowy steppes of Central Asia. NASA photographer Bill Ingalls captured this stunning view of the capsule passing the Moon from one of the helicopters heading to the landing site.

Soyuz TMA-14M commander Alexander Samokutyaev, flight engineer Elena Serova and NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore landed at about 0208 GMT Thursday. The trio concluded a 167-day mission on the International Space Station and appeared in good health and spirits after ground crews extracted them from the landing capsule.

The Soyuz capsule descends towards a blanket of fog. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls.
Recovery crews welcome the station crew back to Earth. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls.