Three Astronauts Return Home From Space Station

Three astronauts have returned to Earth after more than six months aboard the International Space Station.

A Russian Soyuz capsule with NASA's Serena Aunon-Chancellor, Russian Sergey Prokopyev and German astronaut Alexander Gerst, of the European Space Agency, landed on the snow-covered steppes in Kazakhstan, about 140km southeast of the city of Dzhezkazgan.

They touched down a minute ahead of schedule at 11.02am local time on Thursday.

The crew radioed that they were feeling fine. Russian rescue teams in helicopters and all-terrain vehicles rushed to the landing site to extract the astronauts from the capsule charred by a fiery ride through atmosphere.

International Space Station (ISS) crew member cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, of Russia, to get out of capsule after landing. Image: Shamil Zhumatov/Pool via AP

The trio has spent 197 days in space. It was the first mission for Aunon-Chancellor and Prokopyev, while Gerst flew his second to a total of 362 days in orbit, setting the ESA's flight duration record.

The rescue crews will help the crew in their bulky space suits leave the capsule and conduct initial medical examinations. The astronauts will then be flown to the Star City space training centre outside Moscow for more thorough check-ups.

Ground personnel carry International Space Station (ISS) crew member astronauts Serena Aunon-Chancellor of the US. Image: EPA/SHAMIL ZHUMATOV / POOL

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NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Russian Oleg Kononenko and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, who arrived at the station earlier this month, are set to remain in orbit until June.