MOSCOW, July 1 (Xinhua) -- A Soyuz spacecraft with a crew of three on board landed safely in southeastern Kazakhstan on Sunday, Russia's Mission Control Center said.
The Soyuz TMA-03M capsule, bringing home Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, U.S. astronaut Donald Pettit and Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers, touched down at 12:15 Moscow time (0815 GMT) on the landing site some 147 km east of Jezkazgan city.
It undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) at 8:48 a.m. Moscow time (0448 GMT) in an automatic mode.
Live broadcast from NASA TV showed that a search and rescue team helped the three astronauts get out of the module and put them on chair for a few minutes to adapt to the Earth's gravity.
The trio, who had spent 193 days in space, appeared calm and relaxed with smiling faces.
During their mission, the crew vigorously updated their Twitter with photos and videos. They also kept a space diary to note down the memorable experiences in the orbiting station.
In his June 29 diary titled "going home", Pettit shared his reflections of the mission with the public. "When a frontier feels like home, it is no longer a frontier; it has become 'civilization.' Those determined to wander must now pack their bags and move further into the cosmos."
Before the departure, the crew witnessed the Space X Dragon capsule's successful docking with the ISS in May, which raised hopes that commercial spacecraft will be able to shuttle humans and cargo to the station in place of the now-retired U.S. space shuttle.
Space X has a 1.6-billion-U.S.-dollar contract with NASA, which entails supplying cargo to the ISS 12 times in the coming years. NASA said it will fix the date for Space X's first full cargo mission after evaluating the Dragon capsule's performance.
Russia's Soyuz TMA-05M rocket is scheduled to send another three-member crew, namely NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko and Japanese astronaut Akihito Hoshide, to the ISS from the Baikonur space center on July 15.
The three newcomers will join the current ISS crew of Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and NASA astronaut Joe Acaba, who have been in orbit since mid-May.
The successful landing of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft came two days after the Chinese Shenzhou-9 spacecraft's successful return as China had fulfilled its first manned space docking.
Local analysts said China's space program is inching closer toward building a space station, as manned docking procedures are necessary to build and resupply space stations.