Washington: Expedition 37 crew members Karen Nyberg of NASA, Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA) have returned from the International Space Station, landing at 9:49 p.m. EST Sunday, after spending 166 days in space.
Inside the Soyuz spacecraft carrying the astronauts was the Olympic torch, which was launched to the station November 6 and taken on a spacewalk Saturday as part of the torch relay.
The torch will be used to light the Olympic flame at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia, marking the start of the 2014 Winter Games in February.
Nyberg, Parmitano and Yurchikhin arrived at the station in May, and during their extended stay in space orbited Earth 2,656 times and traveled more than 70 million miles. Parmitano conducted a spacewalk in July, becoming the first Italian to walk in space.
The crew welcomed Orbital Sciences Corp.`s Cygnus cargo spacecraft during its demonstration mission to the station. The trio spent hundreds of hours conducting fundamental research in areas such as human biology, life sciences, physical sciences, Earth sciences, astrophysics and technology research.