Home Again, At Last: Soyuz Capsule Brings Astronauts to Earth

Expedition 46 lands in Kazakhstan
The Soyuz-TMN-18M brings the Expedition 46 space explorers home. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

After a record-setting 12-month stay on the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth yesterday (March 1). Cosmonaut Sergey Volkov returned with them after spending six months in space.

A stunning photograph snapped by veteran NASA photographer Bill Ingalls shows the Soyuz capsule serenely parachuting through Earth's clouds, carrying the space travelers home.

The Soyuz-TMA-18M spacecraft landed near Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 11:25 p.m. EST (0425 GMT on March 2) carrying the space travelers home after completing Expedition 46. Upon landing, the space fliers underwent a 60-minute "field test" to assess their initial condition. 

The purpose of the yearlong mission was to gather necessary data on how long-duration weightlessness affects the human body. Scientists will use the details collected to plan a human mission to Mars.

Typically, NASA spends roughly a month and a half reconditioning astronauts to being back on Earth, with daily workouts and exercise to rebuild bone mass and muscle strength lost in the microgravity of the space station.

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Christine Lunsford
Producer and Contributing Writer

Christine Lunsford joined the Space.com team in 2010 as a freelance producer and later became a contributing writer, covering astrophotography images, astronomy photos and amazing space galleries and more. During her more than 10 years with Space.com, oversaw the site's monthly skywatching updates and produced overnight features and stories on the latest space discoveries. She enjoys learning about subjects of all kinds.