Science & Environment

Soyuz lands safely after delays

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Media captionPictures broadcast from the site show the astronaut and cosmonauts leaving the capsule

The delayed Soyuz capsule carrying a US astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts has landed safely in Kazakhstan.

Officials said the capsule had landed upright almost exactly on target in Northern Kazakhstan at 1123 local time.

The Soyuz had earlier undocked from the International Space Station after a failed attempt on Friday.

America's Tracy Caldwell-Dyson and Russia's Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko were on board the space station for almost six months.

Pictures broadcast from the site showed Alexander Skvortsov being lifted, smiling, out of the capsule.

Tracy Caldwell-Dyson was then helped out, followed by third crew-member Mikhail Kornienko.

The crew had been due to begin their descent to Earth on Friday, but the Russian spacecraft failed to undock.

False signal

Their first attempt to leave the station in the Soyuz capsule was aborted when computers signalled a technical problem with the hermetic seals.

Russia's space agency said checks showed the station was sealed and it is unclear why a false signal was sent out.

Nasa said the crew had found a small piece of damaged equipment and experts were trying to work out whether this was causing the problem.

Friday's incident was the third docking problem at the station in four months since the automatic system failed on two unmanned Russian Progress supply shuttles, causing one to fly past the station in June.

Nasa will be watching developments particularly closely because next year its space shuttle will be taken out of service, reports the BBC's Richard Galpin from Moscow.

The only way to get Nasa astronauts to the International Space Station and back will be on board Russian Soyuz capsules, our correspondent says.

Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and two Nasa astronauts, Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker, are due to remain on the space station.

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