A Russian Soyuz capsule landed in the Kazakh steppe on Sunday, carrying three astronauts safely who helped craft the first private dock for a period of six months on the International Space Station.
The descent capsule in carrying Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Don Pettit and astronaut Andre Kuipers European Space Agency, landed by parachute in a cloud of dust at 08:14 GMT.
The crew left the space station in the early hours of Sunday after 183 days in orbit , often sharing their experiences with the public through blogs and Twitter.
In late May, the crew released the unmanned freighter Dragon of Space Exploration Technologies that came as part of a test flight and was the first private spacecraft to reach the orbital outpost of 1,000 million, a project of 15 nations.
Three other members of the crew of the ISS – the Russian Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and NASA astronaut Joe Acaba – will remain in orbit.
Shenzhou 9 and the first Chinese woman in space
The landing of the Soyuz on Sunday came two days after the China’s Shenzhou spacecraft returned to Earth 9 ending a mission that led to the country’s first woman into space.
Although China is far from reaching the United States and Russia, Shenzhou 9 was the fourth manned space mission of China since 2003 and comes as budget cuts and changing priorities in the United States have resulted in a reduction in manned space launches.
Since the withdrawal of the space shuttle last year, the U.S. depends on Russia to take astronauts to the International Space Station.