A space capsule with three astronauts aboard has landed in Kazakhstan. Before the landing, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Russia wouldn't cooperate with the US on the 15-nation ISS past 2020 as NASA had hoped.
The capsule landed on schedule Wednesday at 0158 UTC, descending to a Kazakh steppe under a parachute after undocking from the International Space Station (ISS) 370 kilometers (230 miles) above the Earth about three hours earlier.
"We have confirmation of landing," the US space agency NASA announced. "The crew are well and in good health."
Russia‘s Mikhail Tyurin, Koichi Wakata - the first Japanese national to command an ISS mission - and Rick Mastracchio of the US had spent 188 days in orbit to research growing vegetables, the design of medical drugs and how humans' biological clocks differ in space and on Earth. Two Russians and an American remain aboard the ISS. However, this collaboration may not last for long.
On Wednesday, a groundcrew pulled the three returned astronauts from the hatch at the top of the capsule and maneuvered down a slide into lounge chairs set up nearby and given brief medical assessments as they readjusted to gravity after six months of weightlessness.
"Misha, what would you like to have right now?" an agent from the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, asked Tyurin, whose crew had carried the torch for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
"Some red wine, please," Tyurin replied, his pulse 100 beats per minute, according to Roscosmos.
Until Tuesday, partnership in the $100 billion (73 billion euros) ISS, headed by the US and Russia since it began in 1998, had remained relatively untouched by the rhetoric and economic sanctions stemming from the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula. However, in April, NASA had announced that it would cut cooperation with Russia over Ukraine, with the exception of work at the space station.
Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's deputy prime minister for space and defense, told news agencies Tuesday that he wouldn‘t support a US and European proposal to extend the ISS to 2024. Rogozin, among 11 officials sanctioned by the United States, also said he would ban the sale of the Russian-made rocket engines used to launch US military satellites.
"Space cooperation has been a hallmark of US-Russia relations, including during the height of the Cold War, and most notably, in the past 13 consecutive years of continuous human presence on board the International Space Station," NASA announced in a statement, adding that officials had not yet been officially informed of Russia's intent to quite the program.
"Ongoing operations on the ISS continue on a normal basis," according to NASA.
When the time comes to retire it, agencies will remove the station from orbit and sink it in the ocean.
mkg/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)