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U.S. Space Tourist, Crew Return To Earth

Space tourist Charles Simonyi before boarding the spacecraft.
ALMATY (Reuters) -- A Russian Soyuz space capsule carrying U.S. billionaire Charles Simonyi and a Russian-American crew has landed safely in central Kazakhstan.

"Everything went according to plan. Everything is fine," said Valery Lyndin, a spokesman for Russia's mission control.

A separate NASA feed announced the crew were in "good spirits" as the TMA-13 craft, also carrying U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke and Russian flight engineer Yuri Lonchakov, landed northeast of the Kazakh industrial city of Dzhezkazgan.

"Welcome back to Earth," a NASA official told the crew via a live communication link broadcast on NASA television.

About 200 rescue workers and support teams rushed to the scene to open the capsule and assist the crew with post-landing checks.

Its original landing site, in northern Kazakhstan, had been changed and the landing delayed by a day after officials said the area was too swampy and hard for rescue teams to reach.

Hungarian-born Simonyi, who made much of his fortune developing software at U.S. firm Microsoft, spent two weeks in space conducting experiments, making history as the first tourist to visit the International Space Station twice.