Soyuz spacecraft returns Russians and American

A Soyuz capsule carrying an American and two Russians touched down on target in Kazakhstan today after a descent from the international space station, safely delivering the first two men to follow their fathers into space.

The Soyuz TMA-12 capsule landed at 9:37 a.m. local time (0337GMT), about 55 miles north of Arkalyk in north-central Kazakhstan, Russian Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin told The Associated Press.

Search and recovery crews buzzed in on Mi-8 helicopters and extracted Richard Garriott, Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko from the capsule, which landed on its side on the brushy surface under a clear sky.

"What a great ride that was," said Garriott, an American computer game designer who paid some $30 million for a 10-day stay on the space station. Sitting in an armchair and wrapped in a blue blanket against the near-freezing temperature on the steppe, he smiled broadly.

"This is obviously a pinnacle experience," Garriott said in televised comments.

Garriott was greeted by his father, Owen Garriott, a retired NASA astronaut who flew on the U.S. space station Skylab in 1973.

"Hey, Papa-san," said Richard Garriott, 47. The pair shook hands.

"How come you look so fresh and ready to go?" Owen Garriott, 77, asked his son.

"Because I'm fresh and ready to go — again," he replied.

Not right away, though.

"I'm looking forward to some fresh food and to calling my loved ones," said Garriott, who lives in Austin, Texas, and was seen off by his girlfriend and brother, among others, when he rocketed up to the station on another Soyuz craft on Oct. 12.

"I've got my father here, but I've got other family back home I want to get a hold of."

Volkov sat next to Garriott. The son of a cosmonaut, he beat out Garriott as the first human being to follow a parent into space when he flew up to the space station six months ago. Kononenko, who also spent 199 days in space, was the last out of the capsule and could not be seen in the TV footage.

The head of the Russian space agency Roskosmos, Anatoly Perminov, said on state-run Vesti-24 television that Kononenko had a tougher time than his crewmates during the descent but "feels good now." It was the first space mission for all three men.

The uneventful descent was a relief for space officials — and the crew — after technical problems caused unusually steep "ballistic descents" for the last two returning crews, putting them hundreds of kilometers (miles) off course and subjecting them to stronger gravitational force than in a usual.

On a Soyuz returning in May, the malfunction of an explosive bolt delayed the separation of the re-entry capsule from the rest of the ship. It forced the crew — including a U.S. astronaut and South Korea's first space traveler — to endure a rough ride as the gyrating capsule descended facing the wrong way.

It took nearly half an hour for search helicopters to locate the capsule, which landed some 20 minutes late and 420 kilometers (260 miles) off target, and determine the crew was unharmed.

Last October, a computer glitch sent Malaysia's first astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts on a steeper-than-normal path during their return to Earth.

Russian space officials said changes had been made to equipment and computer programming to prevent another ballistic descent, but they were clearly relieved at Friday's on-time, on-target landing.

The Soyuz TMA-12's module separated without a hitch before it entered the atmosphere, and a series of parachutes gradually slowed its speed from 230 meters (755 feet) per 5 second to about 1.5 meters (5 feet) per second.

"I can't recall a more ideal landing," Perminov said.

Garriott, who created the Ultima computer game series, spent time on the station conducting experiments — including some whose sponsors helped pay for a trip he said cost him a large chunk of his wealth. He also took pictures of the Earth's surface to measure changes since his father did the same 35 years ago.

Garriott took a Soyuz up to the 10-year-old station along with U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov, who will stay in orbit for six months. Also on board is U.S. astronaut Gregory Chamitoff.

The U.S. shuttle Endeavor is due to launch in November and carry equipment needed for raising the number of astronauts living at the orbiting outpost from three to six. That transition should occur in the first half of next year.

The head of the Russian state-controlled RKK Energiya company, which builds the Soyuz spacecraft and Progress cargo ships, said today that construction of ships for the next few missions was on schedule, but further plans could be jeopardized by a money crunch caused by the nation's financial crisis. Vitaly Lopota said the banks had been slow to provide loans to the company, and he urged the government to quickly earmark funds.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
A daily miscellany of general election facts, figures, trivia and traditions
voicesThere's still time for someone to do something to make us care
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, goes back to his family's Sicilian roots in the first 'Godfather' film
film
News
news
News
Kim Kardashian speaks on the Today show about her step-father's transition
PEOPLE
Sport
Wenger and Mourinho square-up to each other earlier this season
sportAll the action from today's Premier League, including Everton vs Man Utd and Chelsea vs Arsenal
News
Tepper had a stunningly successful career as a songwriter
people
Arts and Entertainment
Len Blavatnik
music
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions