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Soyuz spacecraft return to Earth postponed until April 8


MOSCOW, April 3 (RIA Novosti) - The landing of a Soyuz spacecraft with members of the 18th Expedition to the International Space Station and a U.S. tourist has been delayed by one day, Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Friday.

A landing capsule from the Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft, carrying U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke, Russian Flight Engineer Yury Lonchakov and U.S. space tourist Charles Simonyi, was originally scheduled to return to Earth on April 7.

"The landing has been rescheduled for April 8 at 11.00 Moscow time [07.00 GMT], to the north-east of Dzheskazgan [in Kazakhstan]," a Roscosmos spokesman said, without specifying the reasons for the delay.

However, a spokesman for Russia's air navigation service told RIA Novosti that the delay was due to spring floods at the planned landing site on the Kazakh steppe.

"Due to severe flooding in north Kazakhstan, the landing commission decided to postpone the landing until April 8, and move the landing site to a different location," Andrei Pryanishnikov said.

The original site was located 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Arkalyk.

Russia's Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft, carrying two members of the 19th Expedition - Commander Gennady Padalka from Russia and NASA astronaut Michael Barratt - along with Simonyi, docked with the ISS on March 28.

Padalka and Barratt will remain on the ISS for six months, while Japan's Koichi Wakata, who serves as a flight engineer for Expeditions 18, 19 and 20, will return to Earth on board space shuttle Endeavour during the STS-127 mission to orbital station.

NASA has not yet announced the launch date for STS-127 due to delays to the previous shuttle missions.

By the end of May, the ISS will be constantly manned by six astronauts.

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