Trio head home from ISS with football slated for World Cup

The Soyuz MS-07/53S crew: Norishige Kanai commander Anton Shkaplerov and NASA flight engineer Scott Tingle.               NASA

The Soyuz MS-07/53S crew: Norishige Kanai commander Anton Shkaplerov and NASA flight engineer Scott Tingle. NASA

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Kanai and two other astronauts landed on the grasslands of Kazakhstan at 9:39 p.m. Japan time (12:39 p.m. GMT), about three and a half hours after undocking from the ISS.

With the Expedition 55 crew back, the Expedition 56 crew will operate the station and prepare for the arrival of three new crew members on June 8.

Aboard were Russian Anton Shkaplerov, American Scott Tingle and Japan's Norishige Kanai, ending a 168-day mission.

They brought back to Earth a football that will be used in the opening match of the FIFA 2018 World Cup on June 14 in Moscow, according to an Interfax report.

"We are a bit exhausted but happy with what we have accomplished and happy to be back on Earth".

Tingle and Kanai were to travel to the Kazakh city of Karaganda before leaving for Houston, Texas. News agency Tass reported that it was to be used in the opening game, although this has not been confirmed by worldwide football federation Fifa.

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Serena Aunon-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency and Sergei Prokopyev of Roscosmos are set to launch to the ISS from Baikonur on Wednesday.

The crew comprising Andrew Feustel (the crew commander, USA), Oleg Artemyev (Russia) and Richard Arnold (USA) now continue their work aboard the International Space Station.

Shkaplerov, Tingle and Kanai spent more than five months in space working on a variety of scientific experiments.

Scott Tingle, who was on his first flight, experienced a spacewalk with the mission to replace the hand of one of the station's robotic arms.

Space research has been one of the few areas of worldwide cooperation between Russian Federation and the West that has not been wrecked by the Ukraine crisis.

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