MOSCOW: Canadian spaceman Chris Hadfield on Tuesday returned to Earth along with two other astronauts after a half-year mission to the International Space Station that saw him shoot to global stardom through his Twitter microblog.
Hadfield landed safely in the Kazakh steppe along with American Tom Marshburn and Russian Roman Romanenko aboard a Russian Soyuz-TMA capsule that had left the space station earlier on Tuesday morning, Moscow mission control said.
Russian state television pictures showed the giant white parachute of the Soyuz capsule unfurling successfully after re-entry and the capsule then touching down in the Kazakh steppe, sending a plume of dust upwards into the sky.
The Soyuz touched down at 0231 GMT in the steppe south of the central Kazakh city of Karaganda. The Soyuz landed on its side rather than vertically, but this is a relatively common occurence.
On a sunny spring morning, all three astronauts were then successfully extracted from the capsule by recovery teams who rushed to the scene in helicopters.
They were then placed in special chairs amid the long steppe grasses, covered in special thermal blankets and offered tea by the ground crews. All three appeared in good health.
The trio were then whisked away to a medical tent for checks and would later be taken by helicopter to Karaganda. Roma-nenko will then fly on to Moscow while Hadfield and Marsh-burn will be taken by NASA to Houston.
Hadfield captured the public imagination with regular updates on Twitter that gave an unprecedented insight into daily life in space and access to spectacular images taken from the ISS.
In a fitting climax to his mission, Hadfield posted a cover version of the David Bowie classic “Space Oddity” that showed him singing and even playing the guitar aboard the station.
The impressively-performed video became an immediate hit on YouTube and on Tuesday morning barely two days after it was first posted had garnered almost five million views.