3 astronauts return to Earth after 141 days in space

Two astronauts and a cosmonaut are safely back on Earth after spending close to five months living and working in space.

The three International Space Station crewmembers — NASA’s Kjell Lindgren, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui — landed in Kazakhstan shortly after 8 a.m. ET, sheltered snuggly within their Russian-built Soyuz capsule. The Soyuz undocked from the space laboratory at about 4:49 a.m. ET. The landing conditions were rough when they were landing, as it was snowy and just after sunset local time.

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Mission control at NASA, monitoring the landing in Russia.

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NASA’s Scott Kelly, Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov will hold down the fort onboard the Space Station until a new crew of three launches to the outpost on Dec. 15.

Kelly and Kornienko are taking part in the first yearlong mission on the Space Station, scheduled to return to Earth in March 2016.

Lindgren, Yui and Kononenko performed a variety of health and space science investigations while on the station, including an experiment to eat lettuce grown on the station. Lindgren also helped set up another plant growth experiment that could produce the first flowers ever grown on the outpost in early 2016.

Lindgren and Yui were also prolific social media users during their time in space.

At the moment, NASA relies on Russia’s Soyuz rockets and capsules to bring their astronauts to and from the Space Station, but the space agency plans to change that in the near future.

NASA hopes to start sending their space explorers to the orbiting outpost via spacecraft built by two private companies — Boeing and SpaceX — by 2017.

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