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Olympic torch returns to Earth from space

ESPN staff
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Three astronauts returned the Olympic torch to Earth in a Russian space capsule © AP
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The Olympic torch has returned to Earth from the International Space Station in a flawless landing on the steppes of Kazakhstan.

The Russian Soyuz space capsule carrying the Sochi Winter Olympics flame and three astronauts landed at 8:49 local time (02:49GMT), roughly three and a half hours after undocking from the station.

On Thursday, the unlit torch arrived at the station with three new crew members. Two Russian crew members then embarked on a spacewalk with the torch on Saturday.

Russian Fyodor Yurchikhin, American Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano of Italy then brought it back to Earth, with the capsule descending under a parachute.

Mission commander Yurchikhin was extracted from the capsule first within about 10 minutes of touchdown. He was then put in a reclining chair under a blanket - the temperature was minus-four degrees - as he readjusted to the pull of gravity after 166 days of weightlessness. He then held the torch aloft to the gathered crowd.

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