12:25pm

Mon September 17, 2012
The Two-Way

Astronauts Return From Space Station, As An American Takes Command

U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams is now in command of the International Space Station, after receiving control of the facility this weekend. Three departing astronauts whose capsule left the station early Monday landed safely three and a half hours later.

For NPR's Newscast, Peter van Dyk filed this report from Moscow:

"The Soyuz capsule carrying American Joe Acaba and Russians Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin touched down in Kazakhstan as scheduled, almost four hours after leaving the space station. Before leaving, Padalka turned command of the orbiter over to Sunita Williams, making her just the second woman to lead an ISS expedition. She will celebrate her birthday on Wednesday with her two colleagues - a Japanese astronaut and Russian cosmonaut."

"The crew is due to be restored to its usual complement of six in mid-October. The standard duration for a mission to the space station is five months, but Russia's space agency says it is in talks with NASA to start year-long missions from 2015."

In her current stint in orbit, Williams has also conducted two spacewalks, bringing the total time she's spent working outside a spacecraft to more than 44 hours.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.