3 astronauts return to Earth

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News,World,Space

DZHEZKAZGAN, Kazakhstan (AP) — A Russian Soyuz space capsule carrying three astronauts who had spent a half-year aboard the International Space Station landed Wednesday in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

The landing occurred on schedule with the capsule descending under a white parachute. It had undocked from the orbiting laboratory some 260 miles (418 kilometers) above the Earth about three hours earlier.

Russian Mikhail Tyurin, American Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata of Japan had spent 188 days in space.

They were pulled from the hatch at the top of the capsule and maneuvered down a slide into lounge chairs set up nearby and given brief medical assessments as they readjusted to gravity after six months of weightlessness. All appeared to be in good condition and Tyurin was heard joking that he'd like some red wine.

Russians Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev and American Steve Swanson remain aboard the station. Three more astronauts are to launch for the station on May 28.

The landing came less than a day after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Russia wouldn't continue cooperating with the United States on the 15-nation ISS past 2020, as NASA had hoped. The United States has relied on Russian Soyuz capsules to fly to and from the space station since NASA retired its space shuttle fleet. NASA hopes that private companies such as Space X will be able to develop rockets and capsules to fly astronauts to the space station within a few years.

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