BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan — Astronaut Chris Hadfield returned to Earth Monday night after a five-month mission at the International Space Station that saw him become the first Canadian to command the orbiting laboratory.
The 53-year-old touched down in Kazakhstan on a Russian Soyuz capsule which was also carrying Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn — the same pair Hadfield blasted off with on Dec. 19, 2012.
The journey was Hadfield’s first return space flight inside the cramped Russian space capsule. The craft tore into the atmosphere before a parachute opened, slowing its descent until it hit the ground at 10:31 p.m. ET.
Rescue teams moved quickly to help the crew in their bulky spacesuits get out through the narrow exit hatch of the capsule. They were then put into reclining chairs to start adjusting to Earth’s gravity.
The three astronauts smiled as they chatted with space agency officials and doctors who were checking their condition.
Hadfield, who served as the space station’s commander, gave a thumbs-up sign.
They then made quick phone calls to family members and friends.
NASA spokesman Josh Byerly said by telephone from the landing site that the three returning astronauts were doing very well.
During his stay in space, Hadfield became a bit of an extraplanetary media star.
He tweeted photos, talked to schoolchildren, strummed his guitar and provided videos about daily life on the station.