| CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Sept 6
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Sept 6 A U.S. astronaut
and two Russian cosmonauts on Tuesday strapped themselves inside
a Russian Soyuz capsule and flew away from the International
Space Station, aiming for a parachute landing at dawn in
Kazakhstan, a NASA TV broadcast showed.
Station commander Jeff Williams, with the U.S. space agency,
and flight engineers Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka, both
with Russia's Roscosmos agency, pulled away from the station at
5:51 p.m. EDT/2151 GMT as the ships sailed 258 miles (415 km)
over eastern Mongolia, said NASA mission commentator Rob Navias.
"I will certainly miss this view!" Williams wrote on Twitter
earlier on Tuesday, posting a picture of sunlight glinting off
"Vast gratitude toward my crewmates, ground teams,
supporting friends, and family," Williams added.
The capsule is due to make a parachute landing near the
Kazakh city of Zhezkazgan at around 7:14 a.m. local time on
Wednesday (9:14 p.m. EDT on Tuesday/0114 GMT on Wednesday).
The mission comes the same day a U.S. space probe was
cleared for launch on Thursday to collect and return samples
from an asteroid in hopes of learning more about the origins of
life on Earth and perhaps elsewhere in the solar system, NASA
Williams, 58, returns to Earth with a career total of 534
days in orbit, more time than any other astronaut in U.S.
history and 14th in the world.
The Russians remain champions of long-duration spaceflight,
with cosmonaut Gennady Padalka currently the world record-holder
with 878 days in space over five missions.
Before leaving the station, Williams turned over command of
the $100 billion outpost, a project of 15 nations, to cosmonaut
Anatoly Ivanishin, who remains aboard the station with NASA
astronaut Kate Rubins and Japan's Takuya Onishi.
"We'll be missing you here," Ivanishin said during a
change-of-command ceremony on Monday. "Have fun riding though
the atmosphere ... and have a very safe and exceptionally soft
A replacement crew is due to launch on Sept. 23 from the
Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and