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Last Updated: Friday, 29 September 2006, 08:16 GMT 09:16 UK
Space tourist in Earth touchdown
Russian ground staff carry Ms Ansari after touchdown
Ms Ansari was praised by fellow astronauts as 'one of the team'
The first female paying space tourist, Anousheh Ansari, has landed on the Kazakh steppe after a journey back from the International Space Station (ISS).

The Soyuz capsule also carried fellow US astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov. It landed in the 56-mile (90km) predicted zone.

The craft slowed its descent by firing rockets and opening parachutes until it landed softly on its side in a field.

A dozen helicopter rescue teams rushed over to help the astronauts out.

Ms Ansari was given a bunch of red roses by an official as well as a kiss from her husband, Hamid.

All three astronauts were carried on reclining chairs to waiting helicopters. From Kustanai, Kazakhstan, they were to fly to a training centre outside Moscow.

'Safe and sound'

The 40-year-old Iranian-born US businesswoman smiled weakly as she exited the Russian capsule.

It was the ride of a lifetime
Jeffery Williams

"They brought me home safe and sound," she said.

"Anousheh has done a good job - she's one of the team," ITAR-Tass news agency quoted her co-traveller Mr Vinogradov as saying.

Meanwhile, Mr Williams told Reuters news agency that "it was the ride of a lifetime".

The return to Earth took just over three hours. G-forces caused by heavy deceleration can be physically draining after time spent "weightless".

However, the first female Muslim space tourist insisted that "this 10 days has been magnificent for me".

She is thought to have paid at least $20m (10.6m) for a holiday in space which she said she "hoped to do again soon".

Snails, worms and barley

Ms Ansari becomes the fourth tourist to visit the ISS after Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth and Greg Olsen.

Her Soyuz craft was launched to the ISS from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on Monday 18 September.

Ahead of her lift-off, Ms Ansari said she was an ambassador for attracting private investment into space programmes. Her family sponsored the X-Prize, which honoured the first private vehicle to make it into space.

The space explorers brought back snails, worms and barley grown during experiments aboard the ISS.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
See the Soyuz shuttle landing safely back on earth



SEE ALSO
Lift-off for woman space tourist
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Anousheh Ansari: A passion for space travel
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Fortune smiles on space race sponsor
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SpaceShipOne takes X-Prize spoils
08 Nov 04 |  Science/Nature
Health test defeats space tourist
21 Aug 06 |  Science/Nature
Space tourist returns to Earth
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Human spaceflight goes commercial
21 Mar 06 |  Science/Nature
Space tourist hails 'trip to paradise'
06 May 01 |  Science/Nature

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