Astronauts back on Earth after 173 days in space

DZHENZKAZGAN, Kazakhstan (KTRK) -- Three astronauts who spent 173 days in space are now back on Earth.

Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko had what NASA called a "picture perfect landing" near Dzhenzkazgan, Kazakhstan around 6:20 a.m. Houston time.

The crew left the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft early Monday morning.

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Three astronauts have returned to Earth after 173 days in space

Kimbrough and crew embraced astronaut Peggy Whitson with a hug before sealing themselves inside their Soyuz spacecraft.

Whitson is the first female commander of the International Space Station.

The astronauts landed approximately 10 minutes early in Kazakhstan. Recovery forces rushed to the scene as helicopters circled the field where the Soyuz landed.

Kimbrough, Ryzhikov and Borisenko were pulled from the Soyuz, and left sitting in their chairs as medical personnel checked them out in the field.

The crew said they feel well, and are going to get comfortable for just a little bit before returning to work, according to NASA.

Kimbrough is expected to return to Houston shortly to continue his work at NASA.

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