UPDATE: UK astronaut Tim Peake leaves ISS for journey back to earth

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British astronaut Tim Peake is on his way home from the International Space Station (ISS).

The journey began with a four minute 37 second rocket motor blast - the “deorbit burn” - that set his spacecraft on track for re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

In less than one hour the tiny Soyuz capsule carrying Major Peake and his two crew mates, American Nasa astronaut Colonel Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, will parachute down on to the vast flat scrubland of the Kazakhstan steppe.

But first the three men face a scorching rollercoaster ride through the atmosphere with temperatures on the craft’s heat shield reaching 1,600C.

Soon after 3am, UK time, the crew members scrambled from the ISS into the Soyuz TMA-19M space vehicle that took them into orbit on December 15 last year.

Closing the hatch marked the official end of Major Peake’s historic mission, which earned him an honour from the Queen for “extraordinary service beyond our planet”.

At exactly 6.52am, UK time, sprung hooks were released to undock and free the Soyuz.

An outside camera showed the toy-like spacecraft backing out from the space station with the Earth turning slowly below.

Then as the Soyuz moved further away, assisted by two rocket engine burns, a trick of perspective made it appear as if the astronauts were heading for the moon.

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