The Foton-M4 research spacecraft carrying geckos, fruit flies, microorganisms and seeds of higher plants is back to the Earth, a source in the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) told Interfax-AVN.
"The spacecraft has landed," he said.
The landing took place in the Orenburg region.
The "bio-tourists" will be urgently taken by plane to the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medical and Biological Problems. Five geckos went on the space mission but scientists believe their number may be bigger now and expect to see the fourth generation of insects in fruit fly test tubes.
The spacecraft launched on July 19 was supposed to spend two months in orbit but a state commission decided it should land prematurely because contact with it was lost twice during the mission. There was a brief disruption of telemetry about a week ago.
The threat of a complete loss of the bio-satellite emerged immediately after the launch. First of all, the spacecraft failed to reach a circular orbit of about 500 kilometers but instead took an elliptical orbit with a perigee of 252 kilometers and an apogee of 551 kilometers. Secondly, contact with the spacecraft was lost for practically a week, which endangered the lives of geckos, insects and biomaterials - it was impossible to land the spacecraft in an automatic manner.
Foton-M was designed for staging macro-gravity experiments in the field of zero gravity physics, testing engineering solutions for the production of semiconductors and bio-medical preparations with improved properties, and making biological and biotechnological research.
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