International Space Station mission comes to end as Briton and two crewmates travelling in Soyuz capsule land in Kazakhstan
The British astronaut Tim Peake has said he feels “truly amazing” after landing back on Earth following six months in space, touching down in Kazakhstan at the end of a seven-hour return journey from the International Space Station.
Peake’s Soyuz capsule completed its de-orbit to enter the Earth’s atmosphere at around 10am UK time on Saturday and it landed by parachute shortly afterwards.
The landing occurred on target in a remote spot in the vast scrubland steppe of Kazakhstan, landing at 10.15am UK time. The three crew members were extracted one by one and attended to by flight surgeons and nurses.
Peake had his eyes closed and looked tired, but then smiled and gave a thumbs up to waiting reporters. He told the press he was “good thanks, very good” and that the journey “was incredible, a real ride. Best ride I’ve been on ever.”
He added: “It’s just been fantastic, from start to finish … I’m just truly elated, just the smells of Earth are so strong, it’s wonderful to be back … to feel the fresh air. I look forward to seeing the family now.”
He said spending 186 days on the International Space Station had been a “life-changing experience”. “I’m going to miss the view definitely. I’d love some cool rain right now, it was very hot in the capsule and the suit’s very hot … I might be having some pizza later, maybe a cold beer as well.”
The Nasa public affairs officer Dan Hewitt said: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen better weather than the one we have now … all the teams out here actually got to see the capsule touch down, that’s something I’m never going to forget, it was phenomenal to see. All the threw crew members are out of the capsule, they’re going to now enjoy the weather, their first fresh air in over six months.”
Earlier, mission control in Houston said the Soyuz had landed on its side after being caught by to the wind, but that this was a fairly routine occurrence. “The search and recovery forces are now making their way around the aircraft so they can secure the aircraft and make sure all its systems are safe before they can extract the crew,” mission control said.
Since December the 44-year-old former helicopter test pilot has taken part in more than 250 experiments, performed a spacewalk, run the London Marathon on a treadmill and inspired more than 1 million schoolchildren, earning him an honour from the Queen for “extraordinary service beyond our planet”.
The capsule carrying Peake, the Nasa astronaut Col Tim Kopra, and the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, landed in a remote spot on the vast Kazakhastan steppe at 10.15am UK time, Nasa confirmed.
But first the Soyuz made a scorching, and at times rough ride through the atmosphere, with temperatures outside reaching more than 1,600 degrees celsius.
The British astronaut Helen Sharman said before the landing that Peake’s body would need to be prepared. “To multiply your weight by five, it’s very heavy, so just breathing will be more laboured and difficult for him, but he’ll have done this in a centrifuge, we know that he’s strong and fit, as they all are in this crew; he knows what to expect,” she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
Sharman said she didn’t think Peake would be scared . “You know this even before you launch into space, but I think once you’ve made the decision to go, you know that you want to come back, and there is no way around it. This is the only way back and so it’s not a thought of: ‘Shall I do it or not?’.”
Soon after 3am UK time, the three men climbed from the ISS into the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft that took them into orbit on 15 December.
Closing the hatch between the station and the spacecraft 34 minutes later marked the official end of ISS expedition 47 and Peake’s Principia mission.
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