After spending 166 days in space, three astronauts returned to Earth in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
The three astronauts, Russia's Fyodor Yurchikhin, NASA's Karen Nyberg and Italy's Luca Parmitano, also brought back a special piece of cargo. They returned the Olympic torch, which twill be used to light the Olympic flame during the Feb. 7 opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
The torch arrived on the space station Thursday onboard the Soyuz spacecraft with three new crewmembers. On Saturday, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy took the torch outside the orbiting station on a historic spacewalk.
The three astronauts heading home took their positions in the Soyuz spacecraft, along with the Olympic torch, shortly before it undocked from the space station at 6:26 p.m. Sunday.
Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano landed safely in Kazakhstan, just southeast of Dzhezkazgan, at 9:49 p.m. Sunday. The trip home took less than three and a half hours.
A Russian recovery team, along with NASA personnel, reached the landing site by helicopter shortly after the spacecraft landed to assist the crew and conduct health assessments.
During their time in space, the three astronauts completed 70.3 million miles spanning more than 2,600 orbits of the Earth since their launch last May, according to NASA.
NASA's Nyberg has logged 180 days in space on two missions, 13 days of which were during a 2008 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
This article, Astronauts, Olympic torch, safely back on Earth after 3-hour trip home, was originally published at Computerworld.com.
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