SS crew safe after hard off-target landing in Kazakhstan

Other News Materials 19 April 2008 17:18 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Three crew members of the International Space Station (ISS) returned safely to earth on Saturday after experiencing a hard "ballistic landing," 400 kilometres off-target the Interfax agency reported.

The three - South Korean scientist Yi So Yeon, US astronaut Peggy Whitson and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malentchenko - landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan at 0951 GMT in a Soyuz capsule, the mission control centre in Moscow said.

The US and Russian had been in space for 192 days and Yi So Yeon had spent nine days there.

They landed 20 minutes later than scheduled and 400 kilometres from the planned site, the mission control centre said. Investigations were underway to find out why.

Russian news agency Interfax reported that they had experienced a hard ballistic landing, which would have subjected the crew to a major impact.

Nine Russian transport helicopters swept in to greet the astronauts shortly after they touched down, the reports said.

According to Russian Itar Tass agency reports, the condition of the crew was "satisfactory" after the first medical examinations.

A spokesman for the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, said that a reserve type of landing had been used.

"The main thing is that the crew is alive and well," he said.

Malenchenko, 46, and Whitson, 48, had been in space since October 10, 2007, when they blasted off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Whitson later took over as the first woman commander.

Yi, a nanotechnology engineer, made history as South Korea's first astronaut when she took off for a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 10.

She arrived at the space station along with the ISS Expedition 17 crew - Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko who will work in orbit till next autumn.

The capsule had undocked from the ISS at 0806 GMT for the return journey.