September 29, 2006
Capsule, Space Tourist Return to Earth
ARKALYK, Kazakhstan (AP) - The capsule carrying the world's first female space tourist touched down Friday on the Kazakh steppe after a bone-jarring journey from the international space station.
Anousheh Ansari, Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov and U.S. astronaut Jeffrey Williams had left the station aboard a cramped Russian Soyuz capsule about three hours earlier. After the capsule entered the Earth's atmosphere, search and rescue teams in three planes and 12 helicopters tracked the trajectory and scrambled to help the crew out of the craft.
Officials monitoring the landing from Russia's Mission Control outside Moscow applauded after confirming that the capsule had landed in the target zone near Arkalyk, Kazakhstan. The crew felt well, Mission Control said.
Ansari, an Iran-born American telecommunications entrepreneur, was a last-minute choice for the mission, which blasted off from the Russian manned space launch complex in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on Sept. 18. Japanese businessman Daisuke Enomoto was scheduled to be on the launch, but he was scrubbed from the trip in late August for unspecified medical reasons.
The 40-year-old Ansari was the fourth person, and the first woman, to pay a reported $20 million for a trip to the international space station. Briton Helen Sharman in 1991 took a trip to Russia's Mir station that she won through a contest.