Japanese astronaut, 2 colleagues return to Earth from space station

Cosmonauts head back to earth with football slated for World Cup

Three crew members of the International Space Station returned to Earth on Sunday after completing a five-and-a-half month mission, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.

Shkaplerov was travelling back to Moscow, reportedly with a football that might be used in the World Cup later this month.

The Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft undocked from the ISS on Sunday morning and the spacecraft's descent capsule landed later in the day in the steppe near the town of Zhezkazgan in Kazakhstan bringing to Earth Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and astronaut of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Norishige Kanai.

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Shkaplerov was out of the capsule first and was pictured munching grapes as the support crew tended to him ahead of his journey back to Moscow.

They are set to land in Kazakhstan around 1240 GMT after having spent 168 days in space.

The ball, called Telstar 18, was taken to the ISS in March by the Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov. More specifically, the astronauts brought back home the soccer ball that would be used in the opening game of the World Cup 2018, held in Russian Federation.

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According to NASA, the US space agency, astronauts can gain up to 3% in height while in space but regain their normal height when they return to Earth.

Tingle and Kanai ventured outside the station on separate spacewalks to perform work on parts of the Canadarm2 robotic arm, and also participated in educational events as part of NASA's Year of Education on Station, said the statement.

They will join NASA pair Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold and Russian Oleg Artemyev aboard the orbital lab. Another three astronauts are to be launched to the space station on Wednesday from the Baikonur complex in Kazakhstan.

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