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First Malaysian astronaut returns to hero's welcome

Mon Oct 22, 2007 3:30am EDT
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By Chris Baldwin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Malaysia's first astronaut landed safely back in Kazakhstan to a hero's welcome on Sunday with two Russian cosmonauts after spending 11 days in space, officials at Moscow's mission control said.

The Soyuz capsule carrying Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, an orthopedic surgeon from Kuala Lumpur, touched down about 200 km (124 miles) off course at 1037 GMT (6:37 a.m. EDT) because the trajectory of the capsule was changed after entering the atmosphere.

International Space Station commander, Fyodor Yurchikhin, and flight engineer, Oleg Kotov, who had both spent 197 days in space, accompanied Shukor on his return to earth.

Dashing towards earth in what officials call a "ballistic" landing put more stress on the astronauts but all three were in good health, Russian Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov said.

In such a landing, the capsule follows a much steeper and shorter trajectory to earth, causing more spin and resulting in a bumpier ride that puts a greater strain on its occupants.

"They all feel satisfactory, I would even say well. And Sheikh Muszaphar feels best of all as his trip to space was much shorter than the other astronauts," Perminov said.

"The load on the astronauts was a little more than under a normal landing, that is natural. But the so called ballistic trajectory was held only for the last few minutes," he said.

A Malaysian deputy prime minister welcomed Shukor to earth saying his flight would go down in the annals of the Southeast Asian state's history.  Continued...


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