(Corrects date in dateline)
By Dmitry Solovyov
ALMATY May 14 The first Japanese to command a
space mission and crewmates from the United States and Russia
landed safely in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, wrapping up a 188-day
stay aboard the International Space Station.
"We have confirmation of landing," a NASA television
presenter said during a live broadcast as the capsule with the
space trio touched down in a Kazakh steppe 148 km (93 miles)
southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan at 07:58 a.m. (0158 GMT).
"The crew are well and in good health."
Search and recovery forces soon converged on the capsule,
which was charred by extreme heat on re-entry, and opened the
hatch, extracting the crew.
Returning to Earth were space station commander Koichi
Wakata, NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio and Russian cosmonaut
A smiling Tyurin was the first to experience Earth gravity
after six months in orbit, taken from the capsule and carried to
a semi-reclined chair, while a doctor checked his pulse and
"The heart rate is 100 (per minute)," a presenter for
Russian space agency Roscosmos said.
Tyurin, whose crew had symbolically carried a torch of
Russia's Sochi Winter Olympics to orbit, was then shown making a
call via a satellite telephone. "The landing was wonderful.
Everything was just perfect," he said.
"Misha, what would you like to have right now?" a Roscosmos
worker asked Tyurin. "Some red wine, please," Tyurin replied.
An upbeat Wakata, a space veteran with four missions and a
total of more than 300 days spent in space, joined Tyurin
shortly, seated nearby on a warm and sunny day.
Finally, Mastracchio was extracted from the spacecraft, and
the trio were then carried to an orange inflatable tent set up
nearby to undergo medical checks before their flight to Star
City outside Moscow.
EXCITING IN SPACE, TENSE ON EARTH
The returning space trio climbed inside their Russian Soyuz
capsule and departed the orbital outpost at 6:36 p.m. EDT/2236
GMT as it flew 260 miles (418 km) over Mongolia.
"What an exciting time we shared in this increment," Wakata
said during a change-of-command ceremony broadcast on NASA
Television. NASA astronaut Steven Swanson takes control of the
Swanson and cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev
will manage the station, a $100-billion project of 15 nations,
on their own, until new crewmates arrive on May 28.
Until Tuesday, the station partnership, headed by the United
States and Russia, had been relatively untouched by the rhetoric
and economic sanctions stemming from Russia's annexation of
Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.
But the programme's protected status shifted after Dmitry
Rogozin, Russia's deputy prime minister for space and defense,
told news agencies on Tuesday that he would not support a U.S.
and European proposal to extend the space station beyond 2020.
Rogozin, who is among 11 Russian officials sanctioned by the
United States, also said he would ban the sale of Russian-made
rocket engines, which are used to launch U.S. military
satellites. United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed
Martin and Boeing, use the Russian-made RD-180 engines to power
the first stage of its Atlas 5 rockets.
Apparently exempt from Rogozin's ban are Soyuz flight
services, now the only means of taking crew to the space station
following the retirement of U.S. space shuttles in 2011. NASA
pays Russia more than $60 million per person to fly its
astronauts on Soyuz capsules and is expected to continue to do
so until at least 2017.
NASA said it had not yet received any official notification
from Russia on changes in space cooperation.
"Space cooperation has been a hallmark of U.S.-Russia
relations, including during the height of the Cold War, and most
notably, in the past 13 consecutive years of continuous human
presence on board the International Space Station," it said in a
"Ongoing operations on the ISS continue on a normal basis."
NASA, which aims to break the Russian monopoly on crew
flight services by 2017, is reviewing proposals from at least
three U.S. firms to develop a commercial space taxi.
(Additional reporting by Irene Klotz in Cape Canaveral; Editing
by Grant McCool)