Back from space: ISS trio returns to Earth after 24hr delay

A Soyuz capsule has safely landed in northeast Kazakhstan, returning two Russian and one American astronauts back to Earth, after a missions on the International Space Station (ISS) that lasted nearly five months.

It took the capsule carrying expedition commander Kevin Ford and a pair of flight engineers, Oleg Novitsky and Evgeny Tarelkin, less than three-and-a-half hours to descend. It was the first trip to space for the Russian cosmonauts, and the second for their American colleague.

The trio came home after 142 days in space. Their return was initially scheduled for March 14, but was postponed due to bad weather conditions on the ground.

The crewmembers orbited the Earth 2,304 times during their stay aboard the station, traveling 98,169,984 kilometers, according to space.com.

Three other crewmembers remain aboard the space station: Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn. Hadfield is now the commander, meaning a Canadian astronaut is in charge of the ISS for the first time in its history. In less than two weeks, cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Aleksandr Misurkin and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy are expected to arrive at the station.

The challenge for the next space mission crew, the 35th, is to reach the ISS in record time – six hours – way outstripping the current time of two days, thanks to a launch trajectory currently undergoing tests.

The launch is scheduled for March 28 at 2043 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Meanwhile, another adventurer packing up for her long-awaited space trip is Phantom of the Opera star Sarah Brightman. In December, the Space Adventures agency finally confirmed that the British soprano signed an agreement with the Russian Space Agency securing her a space trip in 2015.

Brightman is set to become the next space tourist to the ISS, following Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte, who traveled into space in 2009.