British astronaut Tim Peake returned to Earth in dramatic style after ending the six-month International Space Station (ISS) mission that earned him an honour from the Queen for “extraordinary service beyond our planet”.
His Soyuz space capsule parachuted down to a remote spot in the vast scrubland steppe of Kazakhstan, landing at 10.15am UK time.
First reports said the craft had landed on its side, having been caught by the wind. This is not unusual, according to mission controllers.
Travelling with Peake were crewmates American Nasa astronaut Colonel Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko
A rescue and recovery team raced to the landing site almost 300 miles south west of the major city of Karaganda.
In the last few minutes of the descent the Soyuz was filmed floating through banks of white cloud beneath its huge main parachute canopy, which covers 10,764 square feet.
One second before touchdown six retro-rockets beneath the space capsule are supposed to fire and slow the impact speed to 3mph.
No confirmation has yet been received that the rockets did fire.
Technicians surrounded the capsule to open the hatch and extract Peake and his two crew mates.
The space travellers were pulled one-by-one from the Soyuz and placed in comfortable seats.
Peake had his eyes closed and looked exhausted at first, but then smiled and gave a thumbs up to waiting reporters.
Asked how he felt, he said: “Great, thanks. It was incredible – the best ride I’ve been on ever.
“I’m just truly elated. The smells of the Earth are so strong. It’s just wonderful to feel the fresh air.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the family now.”
He added that spending 186 days on the International Space Station was a “life changing experience”.
Now he was contemplating treating himself to a “pizza and cold beer”, but added that he will miss the view from the space station.
Although, once he arrives in Germany for rehabilitation tomorrow his diet will be carefully controlled.