A space capsule carrying two cosmonauts whose air and food supplies were dwindling glided to a parachute landing at sunrise Wednesday in a calm ending to a dramatic flight.
The cosmonauts brought their spaceship safely to Earth after technical problems trapped them in orbit for 26 hours.Soviet television showed the tiny spherical Soyuz capsule floating on the parachute against a blue and reddish-orange sky in Soviet Central Asia. The capsule had disengaged from the Soviet space station Mir early Tuesday.
Abdul Ahad Mohmand, the first Afghan in space, and Soviet crewmate Vladimir Lyakhov spent more than one day aboard the cramped capsule that had no toilet, virtually no spare room to move around and only enough air for two days.
"Of course, it was not an easy thing to sit in spacesuits for 24 hours," the 47-year-old Lyakhov told reporters while sitting in front of the Soyuz TM-5 capsule after touchdown.
But, Tass, the official Soviet news agency, said "both cosmonauts feel fine after the landing." Radio Moscow said physicians found the men "in good health."
Problems with a guidance system had forced the cosmonauts to cancel two attempts to re-enter the atmosphere on Tuesday. After a sleepless night for the cosmonauts and scientists at mission control who corrected the problems, success came on the third try.
"We are expecting the opening of the parachute," Lyakhov, a veteran military pilot, told mission control during reentry.
"We wish you a successful landing!" a ground controller said.
"It's as if we're now racing along a cobblestone road," Lyakhov added.
Then, he reported: "There is the opening of the main parachute."
Touchdown came at 4:50 a.m. Moscow time (6:50 p.m. MDT Tuesday) 100 miles southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan in the republic of Kazakhstan. The government newspaper Izvestia, which reported the space-to-ground radio exchange, noted that despite the earlier problems with the guidance system, the spacecraft landed within only a few dozen miles of the intended target - just 24 hours late.