Astronauts All Smiles After Returning to Earth From International Space Station

PHOTO: Expedition 42 commander Barry Wilmore of NASA rests in a chair outside the Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft after landing in a remote area of Kazakhstan, March 12, 2015.Bill Ingalls/NASA/AP Photo
Expedition 42 commander Barry Wilmore of NASA rests in a chair outside the Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft after landing in a remote area of Kazakhstan, March 12, 2015.

Barry Wilmore sat, bundled in cold, foggy Kazakhstan, and smiled.

The U.S. astronaut was back on Earth after spending nearly six months aboard the International Space Station. Wilmore, along with Russians Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova, returned to earth on the Soyuz spacecraft Thursday, completing a 249-mile free-fall.

Samokutyaev was the first astronaut removed from the capsule.

Wilmore, the outgoing International Space Station commander, was next.

Serova was the last of the astronauts removed, smiling broadly as she sat in the chair bundled up against temperatures a few degrees below freezing.

PHOTO: Russias space agency ground personnel help Russian cosmonaut Yelena Serova after the landing of the Soyuz TMA-10M capsule in the city Karaganda in Kazakhstan, March 12, 2015.Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images
Russia's space agency ground personnel help Russian cosmonaut Yelena Serova after the landing of the Soyuz TMA-10M capsule in the city Karaganda in Kazakhstan, March 12, 2015.

The return to Earth took about 45 minutes. The atmosphere helped slow down the Soyuz until parachutes opened and the spacecraft glided to a landing.

The astronauts were then taken to recliner-style chairs set up near the capsule to begin their readjustment to gravity and undergo brief medical tests. All three appeared in good condition.

Three other astronauts remain aboard the space station. They will be joined by three others on March 27; two of those -- Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko -- are to spend a full year on the ISS.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.