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Touchdown! Soyuz Spaceship's Landing Jets Fire in Photo

A spectacular shot of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft landing onthe steppes of Kazakhstan shows the bright blaze of the spacecraft's thrustersfiring just before it touched down Wednesday morning (local time).

NASA photographer Bill Ingalls took the photo from arecovery helicopter as the Soyuz TMA-17 capsule safely returned Russiancosmonaut Oleg Kotov, NASA astronaut Timothy "T.J." Creamer, andJapanese spaceflyer Soichi Noguchi backto Earth after six months onboard the International Space Station. The trioserved as members of the Expedition 22 and 23 crews.

Parachutes helped slow the descent of the Soyuz TMA-17spacecraft as it plummeted down from Earth orbit. In the final minutes thethrusters helped further ease off the speed of the capsule to enable a softlanding at 9:25 a.m. Wednesday local time (11:25 p.m. Tuesday EDT).

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Clara Moskowitz
Clara has been SPACE.com's Assistant Managing Editor since 2011, and has been writing for SPACE.com and LiveScience since 2008. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what her latest project is, you can follow Clara on Google+.