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Expedition 17 Lands Safely In Kazakhstan

No Sign Of Previous Soyuz Reentry Woes

Commander Sergei Volkov and Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko of the 17th International Space Station crew landed safely on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 2337 EDT Thursday, after more than six months in space.

All three people aboard the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft were reported to be in good condition after their re-entry and landing. At this time, there is no indication the Russia capsule experienced any of the re-entry issues that plagued two prior Soyuz returns, most recently the April return of the Expedition 16 crew.

A Russian recovery team and NASA personnel reached the landing site by helicopter shortly after the Soyuz touched down. They helped the crew members into reclining chairs for medical tests and set up a medical tent nearby.

With Volkov and Kononenko was spaceflight participant Richard Garriott. He launched to the station October 12 with the Expedition 18 crew, Commander Mike Fincke and Flight Engineer Yury Lonchakov, under contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency.

Astronaut Gregory Chamitoff came to the station aboard Discovery on its STS-124 mission, launched May 31. He served for the last part of Expedition 17 as a flight engineer. He remains aboard the station as a member of the Expedition 18 crew.

Expedition 17 crew members undocked their Soyuz spacecraft from the station at 2016 Thursday. The deorbit burn to slow the Soyuz and begin its descent toward the Earth took place at 2245.

When they landed, Volkov and Kononenko had spent 199 days in space on their Expedition 17 flight, 197 of them on the station. Volkov, 35, a lieutenant in the Russian air force, returned from his first spaceflight. Kononenko, a spacecraft design engineer, also completed his first spaceflight.

As ANN reported, in April the TMA-11 capsule carrying the Expedition 16 crew re-entered Earth's atmosphere in a steeper-than-planned "ballistic" attitude, due to an equipment module that failed to detach properly. The capsule survived re-entry but landed hard, hundreds of miles off course.

US astronaut Peggy Whitson, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and South Korean 'tourinaut' Yi So-yeon survived the harsh conditions, though Yi was hospitalized days after the accident for neck and back pain.

FMI: www.nasa.gov/station

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