Soyuz landing brings astronauts back to Earth

The capsule departed the International Space Station (ISS) at 2332 GMT, carrying three people back to Earth.

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian space agency Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner landed in their Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft at 0254 GMT on the steppe of Kazakhstan southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan.

According to NASA, Cassidy has spent a total of 378 days in space, the fifth-highest among U.S. astronauts.

Remaining aboard the ISS is the three-person crew of Expedition 64 that includes NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, a microbiologist who in 2016 became the first person to sequence DNA in space, and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov.

The mission is the last scheduled Russian flight carrying a U.S. crew member, marking an end to a long-held dependency as the U.S. revives its own crew launch capability in an effort to drive down the cost of sending astronauts to space.

Since the space shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA has relied on Russia to ferry its astronauts to the space station, an orbiting laboratory 250 miles above Earth that has housed international crews of astronauts continuously for nearly 20 years.

The U.S. space agency in 2014 contracted Elon Musk's SpaceX and Boeing Co to build competing space capsules in an effort to reclaim NASA's launch independence. The $8 billion program enabled SpaceX's first manned trip to the space station in May, marking the first from home soil in nearly a decade.

Video Transcript

- And there you see undocking right on time at 6:32 PM Central while the Soyuz and station are 263 miles above Russia. And this view coming from the crosshairs from the video camera onboard the Soyuz itself.

And you can see, Soyuz has now touched down in Kazakhstan 9:54 PM Central time, after 196 days in space, 3,136 orbits, and 83 million miles. Chris Cassidy, Anatoly Ivanishin, and Ivan Vagner are home.

CHRIS CASSIDY: Anything but boring.

- Yeah. The landing time temperature, Brandy, was about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. A cold front moves through this region.