Two Russian cosmonauts and a U.S. astronaut have landed safely in the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan following their six-month stint at the International Space Station (ISS).
Cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov and astronaut Kathleen Rubins touched down as scheduled in the early morning hours of April 17, according to a live broadcast on the television channel of Russia’s Roskosmos space agency.
It was the first ISS mission for Kud-Sverchkov and the second for Ryzhikov and Rubins.
On April 22, the private firm SpaceX is scheduled to launch a four-person mission to the ISS, made up of astronauts from the United States, France, and Japan. It will be the first manned SpaceX mission to reuse the Falcon rocket and the Dragon crew capsule.
NASA recently began using U.S. private companies for transport to the ISS after years of relying on the Russian space program to reach the orbiting laboratory.
NASA has chosen SpaceX to build a lunar lander that the U.S. space agency says will return Americans to the moon. SpaceX beat out proposals by Blue Origin and Dynetics to win the $2.89 billion contract, NASA said on April 16.
NASA declined to provide a target launch date for the mission, known as Artemis.
SpaceX is developing a vehicle called Starship that will be used for the moon mission. A number of prototypes of the bullet-shaped 50-meter-tall rocket have exploded or crashed during test flights with no crew.
But CEO Elon Musk has been undeterred, saying Starship will succeed at carrying people and other tasks such as putting satellites into orbit.