Almaty, Kazakhstan: A Soyuz capsule with two Russians and an American on board touched down safely today in mild weather on the sweeping steppes of central Kazakhstan.
The three-man crew, comprising Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin and NASA`s Daniel Burbank, returned to earth after a 163-day stay on the International Space Station.
The Russian-made module gently landed on schedule, throwing up a puff of earth in a remote and dusty location north of the central Kazakh town of Arkalyk.
Eight search-and-rescue helicopters circled the landing site to ensure a speedy recovery process.
NASA television broadcast vivid images of the capsule carried by a parachute swaying slightly as it floated downward in the clear skies while six all-terrain vehicles approached the landing spot in a well-rehearsed procedure.
The capsule rolled onto its side during the landing, which is common, picking up a coating of rough tinder-dry wild steppe grass.
Shkaplerov, who was positioned in the central seat, was the first to be hauled out and hoisted into a reclining chair. While medical personnel mopped his brow and checked his vital signals, the astronaut smiled broadly and chatted with his colleagues.
Ivanishin, and then a heartily laughing Burbank, went through the same procedure a few minutes later.
Speaking from the touchdown site, NASA spokesman Rob Navias said this was a "bullseye landing."
"The spacecraft landed almost exactly where it was forecast to," he told NASA television.
The capsule`s voyage from the space station started 3 1/2 hours earlier, when it undocked and began a slow, gentle drift away from the space station.