The Soyuz-TMA-09M spacecraft, also carrying Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, US astronaut Karen Nyberg and Italian Luca Parmitano, landed in Kazakhstan at around 8.50 am.

The mission control centre has sent over 200 search and rescue experts, 12 helicopters and six emergency vehicles to the landing site.

All the three astronauts were "in a good mood" after a six-month long mission on the International Space Station, the mission control centre said.

The torch, which will light the main Olympic flame at the opening ceremony of the Sochi Games Feb 7, was lifted into space November 7 and was taken on a spacewalk two days later.

It was unlit throughout the flight for safety reasons. The Olympic torch has been sent into space twice before, for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics and Sydney Games in 2000, but has never been taken outside the spacecraft.

Flying the torch to the International Space Station is part of the 123-day relay which covers Russia's 83 regions spanning 132 cities.

The 22nd Winter Olympic Games are slated for February 7-23, 2014 with 98 events to be contested.


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