Astronauts land safely in Kazakhstan

In the first manned re-entry since the Shuttle fleet was retired earlier this year, three International Space Station crew members touched down safely last night.

Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum, along with flight engineers Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Sergei Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency, landed their Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft on the central steppe of Kazakhstan at 9:26 pm ET.

The three arrived at the station on June 9.

Before leaving the station, Fossum handed over command to NASA’s Dan Burbank, who leads Expedition 30. Burbank and flight engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov of Russia will continue research and maintenance aboard the station.

The remaining Expedition 30 crew members – NASA astronaut Don Pettit, European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko – are scheduled to launch December 21 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, docking with the station two days later.

“As wonderful as it is to live on board the space station, experience weightlessness, have this glorious view of planet Earth below us, there’s probably one downside, especially when it comes to the holidays, and that’s being away from family and friends,” says NASA astronaut Dan Burbank.

The astronauts will tuck into a Thanksgiving dinner of smoked turkey with homestyle potatoes and all the trimmings.

“We’re going to be real thankful for the opportunity we have to fly abourd this magnificent space station, and we’re going to be thankful for the love and the support of all the folks we have back home” says Burbank.