Astronauts carrying the Olympic torch into space returned from the International Space Station on Monday after a 166-day mission.

The space mission, which was part of Russia’s torch relay ahead of the Winter Olympic Games next year included Russia’s Fyodor Yurchikhin, US’s Karen Nyberg and Italy’s Luca Parmitano, all of whom came down in the Soyuz capsule to land in Kazakhstan at 0249 GMT.

Upon landing, the captain, Yurchikhin held up the torch for photos after it was unwrapped. The torch was not lit in space on account of safety and was packaged to prevent damage.

The captain was shortly followed by his colleagues, after which the medical staff carried out routine procedures and the astronauts changed their suits. 

According to NASA TV, it was a flawless descent and the capsule landed exactly where it was supposed to. After the Soyuz capsule’s return, the International Space Station has three Russians, two Americans and a Japanese astronaut remaining onboard. 

The torch was taken for a spacewalk on Saturday, pictured with the ISS and Earth in the background in a breathtaking view shown on live television worldwide.

The same torch will now be used to light up the Olympic cauldron when the Winter Games begin in February 2014.

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