Soyuz Lands in Kazakhstan Ahead of Security Summit

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Two NASA astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut safely returned to Earth Nov. 25 after a five-month-long stay at the international space station.

Americans Douglas Wheelock and Shannon Walker and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin landed in their Russian Soyuz TMA-19 space capsule on the central steppes of Kazakhstan at 11:46 p.m. EST.

The trio launched to the space station on a Soyuz rocket June 15. While living aboard the orbiting outpost, Wheelock actively engaged in social media, using Twitter to post pictures taken from 350 kilometers above Earth.

The Soyuz landing, originally planned for Nov. 30, was moved up a few days to avoid conflicting with the start of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit, which is being held in Astana, Kazakhstan, Dec. 1 and Dec. 2. The meeting will attract heads of state from around the world to discuss international security issues.

With their departure, Wheelock, Walker and Yurchikhin left behind their fellow station crewmembers: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexander Kaleri. The space station will be home to only three people until mid-December, when NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman, European astronaut Paolo Nespoli and Russian cosmonaut Dmitri Kondratyev arrive to round out the outpost’s Expedition 26 crew.