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Astronauts return to Earth after undocking glitch is overcome

U.S. astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson talks on the phone Saturday as a doctor examines her after the Soyuz capsule landed in Kazakhstan with three aboard from the International Space Station.

Associated Press

U.S. astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson talks on the phone Saturday as a doctor examines her after the Soyuz capsule landed in Kazakhstan with three aboard from the International Space Station.

A Russian Soyuz capsule landed Saturday in Kazakhstan, returning three residents of the International Space Station to Earth a day later than planned because of an undocking malfunction.

Parachutes braked the descent of the Soyuz re-entry craft as it landed on the steppe of southern Kazakhstan near Arkalyk, with American Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Russia's Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko, the U.S. space agency said. The three spent six months in space.

"The team is doing well," reported the Russian space agency Roskosmos.

Troops helped the astronauts out of the capsule upon landing. Wrapped in a blanket, Caldwell Dyson immediately called her family.

The Soyuz undocked from the space station Saturday after the crew made repairs to fix the problem in the station's docking module that delayed their departure, originally scheduled for Friday.

Hooks had failed to open to release the Soyuz from the station, and the crew and engineers on the ground later determined that the problem occurred because of a failed hatch sensor, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.

The malfunction prevented mission control in Moscow from receiving the "hatch lock" signal, although the seals between the station and Soyuz capsule were functioning properly, NASA said.

Station flight engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin then installed jumper cables to bypass the malfunctioning sensor, allowing the Soyuz to undock just after 10 p.m. Friday.

It was the first time in the station's history that a Soyuz capsule had not departed from the station as planned. The problem came shortly after a July incident in which an unmanned Russian cargo rocket veered out of control and flew past the space station as it was trying to dock there.

The station's current three-member crew is scheduled to be replenished with the Oct. 7 launch of a Soyuz capsule from the Russian space center at Baikonur, Kazakhstan, with cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri, Oleg Skripochka and U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly on board. They are to dock two days later with the station.

Astronauts return to Earth after undocking glitch is overcome 09/25/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 25, 2010 9:45pm]
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