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Astronauts Return From Space Station, As An American Takes Command

  • The Soyuz capsule floats as it brings Commander Gennady Padalka of Russia, NASA Flight Engineer Joe Acaba and Russian Flight Engineer Sergei Revin to a landing area near the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan. When it detached from the space station, the capsule was over Kenya.
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    The Soyuz capsule floats as it brings Commander Gennady Padalka of Russia, NASA Flight Engineer Joe Acaba and Russian Flight Engineer Sergei Revin to a landing area near the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan. When it detached from the space station, the capsule was over Kenya.
    Carla Cioffi/NASA
  • The capsule lands, after its braking engines ease its final meter of descent.
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    The capsule lands, after its braking engines ease its final meter of descent.
    Carla Cioffi/NASA
  • The Soyuz TMA-04M capsule lands in a remote area near the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, Monday. Padalka, Acaba and Revin returned from five months onboard the International Space Station, where they served as members of the Expedition 31 and 32 crews.
    Hide caption
    The Soyuz TMA-04M capsule lands in a remote area near the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, Monday. Padalka, Acaba and Revin returned from five months onboard the International Space Station, where they served as members of the Expedition 31 and 32 crews.
    Carla Cioffi/NASA

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U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams is now in command of the International Space Station, after receiving control of the facility this weekend. Three departing astronauts whose capsule left the station early Monday landed safely three and a half hours later.

For NPR's Newscast, Peter van Dyk filed this report from Moscow:

"The Soyuz capsule carrying American Joe Acaba and Russians Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin touched down in Kazakhstan as scheduled, almost four hours after leaving the space station. Before leaving, Padalka turned command of the orbiter over to Sunita Williams, making her just the second woman to lead an ISS expedition. She will celebrate her birthday on Wednesday with her two colleagues - a Japanese astronaut and Russian cosmonaut."

"The crew is due to be restored to its usual complement of six in mid-October. The standard duration for a mission to the space station is five months, but Russia's space agency says it is in talks with NASA to start year-long missions from 2015."

In her current stint in orbit, Williams has also conducted two spacewalks, bringing the total time she's spent working outside a spacecraft to more than 44 hours.

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