A woman took command of the International Space Station for just the second time Monday, after three US and Russian colleagues left the orbiting space lab and landed safely in the Kazakh steppe.
The Soyuz TMA-04M capsule touched down with US astronaut Joe Acaba and the Russians Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin aboard after deploying a huge white parachute and making a pin-point descent with helicopters tracking its progress.
NASA television footage showed the men relaxing in lounge chairs and sipping warm drinks from thermoses with smiles on their faces as medical teams checked their pulses and chatted to them about their trip.
"All three crew members are safe and adjusting to gravity," the US space programme tweeted on the official NASA website.
The three leave behind another trio led by new commander Sunita Williams -- a US space veteran who has just set a record for the longest continuous stay by a woman in space.
Williams is now in charge of a crew also comprised of Japan's Akihiko Hoshide and the Russian Yury Malenchenko. They are set to be joined by a new expedition on October 17.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]