Late last night, Soyuz TMA-21 made it back to Earth safely. The three astronauts on board are all safe. But before the capsule touched down in Kazakhstan, mission control and those watching live were treated to some heart-stopping moments.
NASA astronaut Ron Garan and Russian cosmonauts Andrei Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyayev landed some 150 kilometers (93 miles) southeast of the city of Zhezkazgan at 10 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) after 164 days in space.
Repeated calls to the Soyuz TMA-21 capsule from Mission Control in Korolyov, outside Moscow, went unanswered for several minutes, well after the craft had de-orbited. Communication was eventually established between the crew and an Antonov fixed-winged aircraft circling the landing site.
CNet describes the scene after the safe landing:
Russian recovery crews, along with NASA flight surgeons and space station program managers, were standing by to help Soyuz commander Alexander Samokutyaev, Andrey Borisenko, and NASA flight engineer Ronald Garan out of the cramped descent module as they begin their re-adaptation to gravity after five-and-a-half months in space.
All three men appeared relaxed and in good spirits as they rested in recliners near the scorched descent module, smiling and chatting with recovery crews. Borisenko, the last of the three to be pulled from the spacecraft, flashed an enthusiastic thumbs-up.