Jason DavisJun 18, 2016

Picture-perfect landing for Soyuz crew on sunny Kazakh steppe

Tim Kopra, Tim Peake and Yuri Malenchenko are back on Earth today following a picture-perfect landing on the sunny Kazakhstan steppe. 

The crew left the International Space Station in their Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft early this morning, pulling back from the Earth-facing Rassvet module at 1:52 a.m. EDT (6:52 UTC). Touchdown occurred three-and-a-half hours later, at 5:15 a.m. 

NASA public affairs officer Dan Huot was in one of the Russian recovery helicopters and called in live to NASA TV to describe the scene.

"It was just real picturesque," Huot said. "We were able to see [the Soyuz] almost the entire way down under chute, and see those soft-landing engines fire. And that was just unreal to see from a helicopter." 

Here's NASA's video recap: 

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NASA photographer Bill Ingalls snapped pictures of the Soyuz capsule floating gently past columns of clouds. As usual, his images are stunning:

Soyuz TMA-19M capsule descends into clouds
Soyuz TMA-19M capsule descends into clouds NASA / Bill Ingalls
Soyuz TMA-19M capsule descends
Soyuz TMA-19M capsule descends NASA / Bill Ingalls
Soyuz TMA-19M touchdown
Soyuz TMA-19M touchdown NASA / Bill Ingalls

NASA said temperatures at the landing site were around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Here's the crew soaking in the sun for the first time in six months:

Expedition 47 crew after landing
Expedition 47 crew after landing From left: Tim Peake (European Space Agency), Yuri Malenchenko (Roscosmos), Tim Kopra (NASA). NASA / Bill Ingalls
Thumbs-up from Tim Kopra
Thumbs-up from Tim Kopra NASA astronaut Tim Kopra gives a thumbs-up shortly after the landing of the Expedition 47 crew in Kazakhstan. NASA / Bill Ingalls

Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, who remains aboard the station with Alexey Ovchinin and NASA's Jeff Williams, posted a quick ISS mailbox update for Roscosmos shortly after the departing crew boarded their spacecraft. Here are a couple nice pictures he included: 

Expedition 47 crew boards Soyuz TMA-19M
Expedition 47 crew boards Soyuz TMA-19M The crew of Expedition 47 prepares to board their Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft and return to Earth. From left: Yuri Malenchenko, Tim Kopra, Tim Peake. Roscosmos
Yuri Malenchenko boards Soyuz TMA-19M
Yuri Malenchenko boards Soyuz TMA-19M Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko boards Soyuz TMA-19M as the crew of Expedition 47 prepares to return to Earth. Roscosmos

The station's crew complement will remain at three for two-and-a-half weeks. On July 6, Kate Rubins (NASA), Takuya Onishi (JAXA) and Anatoli Ivanishin (Roscosmos) launch from Baikonur on Soyuz MS-01. 

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