British astronaut Tim Peake has returned to Earth in dramatic style after ending the six-month International Space Station (ISS) mission that earned him an honour from the Queen for "extraordinary service beyond our planet". His Soyuz space capsule parachuted down to a remote spot in the vast scrubland steppe of Kazakhstan, landing at 10.15am UK time. First reports said the craft had landed on its side, having been caught by the wind. This is not unusual, according to mission controllers.
During the mission, Tim Peake found time to make the first spacewalk by a UK astronaut, remotely steer a robot on Earth and run the London Marathon. He is the first person to fly to space under the UK banner since Helen Sharman in 1991. His 186-day mission has taken him on about 3,000 orbits of Earth, covering a distance of about 125 million km. "The best ride I've been on ever," was how Maj Peake described the journey back, after he exited the capsule. Asked how he felt, he said: "Truly elated, the smells of Earth are just so strong, just so good to be back on Earth. I'll look forward to seeing the family."
Travelling with Major Peake were crewmates American Nasa astronaut Colonel Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko. A rescue and recovery team raced to the landing site almost 300 miles south west of the major city of Karaganda. In the last few minutes of the descent the Soyuz was filmed floating through banks of white cloud beneath its huge main parachute canopy, which covers 10,764 square feet. One second before touchdown six retro-rockets beneath the space capsule are supposed to fire and slow the impact speed to 3mph. No confirmation has yet been received that the rockets did fire.
Technicians are now surrounding the capsule preparing to open the hatch and extract Major Peake and his two crew mates. The space travellers were pulled one-by-one from the Soyuz and placed in comfortable seats. After that He said that spending 186 days on the International Space Station was a "life changing experience". Now he was contemplating treating himself to a "pizza and cold beer".