NASA's Scott Kelly and two Russian astronauts landed safely Wednesday in the snowy expanses of central Kazakhstan after spending five months on the International Space Station.
The Soyuz capsule carrying Kelly, Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka landed in the afternoon about 30 miles from the Kazakh city of Arkalyk.
Kelly returns to earth as his twin brother, Mark, husband of wounded congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, prepares to take part in the space shuttle Endeavour's final mission in April.
The capsule came back to harsh conditions, including a stiff wind that blew it on its side and rolled it 25 yards from its touchdown point through fresh snow. Rob Navias, a spokesman for the U.S. space agency NASA on the scene, described conditions as "a scene from the North Pole."
The space travelers were bundled into blankets after being pulled from the capsule, then placed in reclining stretchers as they slowly acclimated to the planet's gravity after months of weightlessness.
The first out was Kaleri, who has now spent a total of 770 days in space over five flights, making him the second most experienced space flier in history after compatriot Sergei Krikalyov.
During his time on the space station, Kelly ran a series of challenges on his Twitter feed in which his followers had to identify locations on Earth shown in photographs taken from the orbiting laboratory.
The final photo posted was of snow-covered Kazakhstan.
Russian Dmitry Kondratyev, Italy's Paolo Nespoli and American Catherine Coleman remain aboard the space station; they are to return to Earth in about three months.