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Expedition 17: Landed!

Three space voyagers have landed safely in Kazakhstan this morning. Two of the Expedition 17 crew of the International Space Station, along with "space tourist" Richard Gariott, returned to Earth in their Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft. No ballistic re-entry this time! Greg Chamitoff remains aboard the ISS as part of Expedition 18. He will come home in November aboard Endeavour.  NASA reports:

Expedition 17 Crew Lands in Kazakhstan

Sergei Volkov
Image above: Sergei Volkov, Expedition 17 commander, relaxes outside the Soyuz TMA-12 capsule after landing in Kazakhstan. Image credit: NASA TV

Commander Sergei Volkov and Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko of the 17th International Space Station crew landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 11:37 p.m. EDT Thursday after more than six months days in space.

All three people aboard the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft were reported to be in good condition after their re-entry and landing.

A Russian recovery team and NASA personnel reached the landing site by helicopter shortly after the Soyuz touched down. They helped the crew members into reclining chairs for medical tests and set up a medical tent nearby.

With Volkov and Kononenko was spaceflight participant Richard Garriott. He launched to the station Oct. 12 with the Expedition 18 crew, Commander Mike Fincke and Flight Engineer Yury Lonchakov, under contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency.

Astronaut Gregory Chamitoff came to the station aboard Discovery on its STS-124 mission, launched May 31. He served for the last part of Expedition 17 as a flight engineer. He remains aboard the station as a member of the Expedition 18 crew.

Expedition 17 crew members undocked their Soyuz spacecraft from the station at 8:16 p.m. Thursday. The deorbit burn to slow the Soyuz and begin its descent toward the Earth took place at 10:45 a.m.

When they landed, Volkov and Kononenko had spent 199 days in space on their Expedition 17 flight, 197 of them on the station.

Volkov, 35, a lieutenant in the Russian air force, returned from his first spaceflight. Kononenko, a spacecraft design engineer, also completed his first spaceflight.

+ Read more about Expedition 18
+ Read more about Expedition 17
+ View crew timelines

News video here. Expedition 17 pics are up at the JSC Gallery. Video clips here. Discussion here. News resources here. Check the links at right for play-by-play and NASA TV.