Three crew members of the International Space Station returned to Earth on Sunday after completing a five-and-a-half month mission, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.
A Soyuz spacecraft carrying Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, Norishige Kanai of Japan and Scott Tingle of NASA landed in the Kazakhstan countryside around 6:40 p.m., three-and-a-half hours after detaching from the station.
The three had been on the orbital laboratory since mid-December, with Shkaplerov, 46, serving as mission commander from February until he turned over command to American Drew Feustel on Saturday.
“(The landing) was like a roller coaster. All over again I feel my body is heavy, I feel the gravity,” Kanai told reporters after he was taken from the spacecraft.
Kanai, a 41-year-old former Maritime Self-Defense Force doctor, had drawn international attention for claiming on Twitter to have grown 9 centimeters taller after three weeks at the space station due to the absence of gravity. He later said he had made a measurement mistake and had only grown 2 cm.
During his stay at the ISS, he conducted various scientific experiments as the 12th Japanese astronaut to travel into space and the seventh to stay at the ISS for a period of months.
Kanai became the fourth Japanese astronaut to walk in space in February.
In April, he operated the ISS’s robotic arm to catch a U.S. unmanned resupply ship.