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Olympic torch returns from space

by JIM HEINTZ Associated Press on November 11, 2013 10:10 AM

MOSCOW — A Russian space capsule carrying the Sochi Olympic torch and three astronauts returned to Earth today from the International Space Station in a flawless landing on the steppes of Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz capsule landed at 8:49 local time, about 3ᄑ hours after undocking from the station with Russian Fyodor Yurchikhin, American Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano of Italy aboard.

The unlit Olympic torch was brought to the ISS on Thursday when three new crew members arrived. Two Russian crew members took it on a spacewalk Saturday.

The capsule descended through brilliantly clear skies under a parachute.

Yurchikhin, the mission commander, was extracted from the capsule within about 10 minutes of touchdown and carried to a reclining chair, where he was put under a blanket against the 25 F chill and began adjusting to the pull of gravity after 166 days of weightlessness.

All three were to be taken for tests at a medical tent at the landing site, then flown to the city of Karaganda for a welcome ceremony.

Six people remain aboard the space station: Russians Oleg Kotov, Sergei Ryazansky and Mikhail Tyurin; NASA’s Michael Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio; and Koichi Wakata of Japan.

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