Sunday, February 28, 1999 Published at 14:38 GMT
Mir visitors return to Earth
Recovery crews at the landing site
Two crew members from the Russian Mir space station have returned safely to Earth.
Mir commander Gennadiy Padalka, who had been on a six-month mission, and the first Slovak cosmonaut - Ivan Bella, who spent only a week aboard - landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan.
They could be the penultimate crew to make the trip back from the ageing space station
The Russian Space Agency says it has government funding to keep Mir in orbit until August. Then it is up to the Energiya rocket corporation which owns Mir to find private sponsors to fund costs of about $250m a year. So far it has had no success.
The cosmonauts were carried out of the capsule, smiling and laughing with the rescue team.
They were examined and taken by helicopter to Arkalyk airport where they received the traditional greeting of bread and salt before heading back to Moscow.
Since the first components were launched 13 years ago, more than 100 men and women have visited Mir.
But Russian efforts to keep the station in orbit beyond the planned retirement date of June have annoyed the United States.
It wants Russia's resources focused on the International Space Station, which is more than a year behind schedule due to Russian delays.