MOSCOW – A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying two astronauts to Earth after a half-year aboard the International Space Station has landed.
The capsule with Russia’s Oleg Novitsky and Thomas Pesquet of France descended under a red-and-white parachute and landed on schedule at 8:10 p.m. (1410 GMT) Friday on the steppes of Kazakhstan outside the city of Dzhezkazgan, about 2,200 kilometers (1,370 miles) southeast of Moscow.
Both were extracted from the capsule, which came to rest on its side, within 15 minutes and appeared to be in good condition.
Although Soyuz capsules have three seats, one was unoccupied because NASA’s Peggy Whitson’s mission aboard the space station has been extended by three months.
Pesquet and Novitsky spent 194 days aboard the orbiting space laboratory.
Pesquet, who reinvigorated France’s interest in space with breathtaking tweeted photos and online chats from the cosmos, returned to a presidential welcome.
French President Emmanuel Macron talked to the astronaut by video transmission after he landed Friday and praised Pesquet for sharing his experience so openly.
“You made us all dream during those six months with your images, your tweets,” Macron told him.
Pesquet responded, “it gave me pleasure to share.”
Macron, who had just launched his presidential campaign when Pesquet blasted off in November, noted that “since you left, a lot of things have happened ….”