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Expedition 11 Returns to Earth.

The crew of Expedition 11 landed safely in the steppes of Kazakhstan Monday morning, after spending 179 days on board the International Space Station. Space tourist Greg Olsen was also in in the Soyuz TMA capsule, having spent a week in space. The recovery team reached the crew within minutes, and found them safe and healthy. There was an unexpected loss of communications with the Soyuz while it reentered the Earth's atmosphere, but communications were reestablished, and there were no other problems with the landing.

Commander Sergei Krikalev and NASA ISS Science Officer and Flight Engineer John Phillips. Image credit: NASA.

After travelling 75 million miles during six months on the international space station, Expedition 11 Commander Sergei Krikalev and Flight Engineer John Phillips safely returned to Earth today.

American businessman Gregory Olsen accompanied them aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The Soyuz landed in north-central Kazakhstan, about 53 miles northeast of Arkalyk, at 9:09 p.m. EDT. Olsen spent eight days on the station under a commercial agreement with the Russian Federal Space Agency.

The crew's families will greet them at star City near Moscow early tomorrow. Krikalev and Phillips will remain in star City for post-flight debriefings before returning to Houston later this month.

Krikalev and Phillips launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on April 14. They spent 179 days, 23 minutes in space. During their mission, they welcomed the Space Shuttle Discovery's crew in July and set important milestones.

In June, Phillips became the first American to give congressional testimony from space. He appeared by satellite before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.

On Aug. 16, Krikalev set the human record for time in space. He surpassed Cosmonaut Sergei Avdeyev's record of 747 days, 14 hours and 14 minutes. Krikalev is a veteran of six spaceflights, including two to the Russian space station Mir, two shuttle flights and the first International Space Station expedition. He spent 803 days, 9 hours and 39 minutes in orbit.

The new station crew, Expedition 12 Commander Bill McArthur and Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev, will have light duty for the next few days, as they rest from the handover. They will remain in orbit six months and perform at least two spacewalks, the first in early November.

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