Russian Soyuz Spacecraft Lands Safely in Kazakhstan, Three Astronauts in Tow

The Russian Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft, carrying three astronauts (Commander Andrei Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyayev, both Russian, and American Ron Garan) safely landed this morning in Kazakhstan, bringing them home after five months on the International Space Station. The landing, about 94 miles southeast of the smallish Kazakh city Zhezkazgan, wasn't entirely flawless--mission control lost contact with the capsule briefly--but the landing itself was very smooth.

Click to launch a gallery of the capsule's Kazakh landing.

Three astronauts remain on board the ISS: Russian Sergei Volkov, American Michael Fossum, and Japanese Satoshi Furukawa. All three are due to return to Earth on November 22nd, which, as we noted, may leave the ISS unmanned for the first time in a decade, as the preceding launch of three new astronauts has been repeatedly delayed.

TMA-21 in Mid-Air

The Soyuz TMA-21 capsule, here seen in mid-air, landed about 93 miles from Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, a small city smack-dab in the center of the country.Sergei Ilnitsky/AP

TMA-21 Lands in Kazakhstan

And here's the moment of landing. The spacecraft carried on board three astronauts: Ron Garan (an American who may be most familiar to readers for his prolific photography) and Russians Andrei Borisenko (the Commander of the mission) and Alexander Samokutyayev.Bill Ingalls/AP

Carrying Garan

And here begins the particular Soyuz procession of the lawn chairs. The astronauts are carried from the landing site in these chairs, at which point their beaming faces are captured seeing a closeup view of Earth again for the first time in months. Pictured here: American astronaut Ron Garan.Sergei Ilnitsky/AP

Seated Astronauts

And now all three of the astronauts, seated in their lawn chairs, behind some kind of inhospitable-looking Kazakh shrub. The astronauts undergo some basic medical checks as soon as they disembark.Sergei Ilnitsky/AP

Sardinonauts

You can see why the astronauts might need some time to stretch out, after being crammed inside the Soyuz TMA-21 space capsule on their way home.Sergei Remezov/AP