Ansari back from space, which smells like burnt almond cookie

The Expedition 13 crew have returned from the International Space Station to Earth -- specifically, the dry steppes of Kazakhstan, where they landed Thursday night local time in a Soyuz TMA 8 spacecraft. No word on whether Borat was around to welcome them home.

In the NASA image above, from left: Anousheh Ansari, the first female space tourist, who accompanied Expedition 13 crew members Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Jeff Williams.

Just a few minutes before this photo was taken, they were extracted from their Soyuz capsule after landing on the home planet.

Expedition 13 was up there for six months, and a NASA report says their tasks included ..."the arrival of two space shuttle missions, resumption of construction of the orbiting laboratory and the restoration of a three-member crew."

They'll now spend a few weeks in Star City, near Moscow, for debriefing and medical exams.

Ansari ascended to the ISS with the crew of Expedition 14, and spent eight days there. Her trip was arranged through the Russian Federal Space Agency.

BoingBoing reader John Parres recaps Ansari's Awesome Adventure:

On September 18, Russians launched a Soyuz supply ship carrying a replacement ISS crew and the first female private space explorer, Iranian-American telecommunications entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari, from the very same pad used 45 years ago to launch the first man into space - Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961.

Ms. Ansari is the first female Muslim to view the Earth from weightlessness. (Prince Sultan ibn Salman ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz Al Sa'ud of Saudi Arabia was the first Arab, the first Muslim and the first member of royalty in space on Discovery in 1986 1985).

In 2004 Ms. Ansari and another relative put up the title sponsorship of the $10 million reward for the winner of the Ansari X Prize aimed at encouraging the development of a privately built, reusable spaceship which which SpaceShipOne achieved in October 2004.

Anousheh Ansari maintained a space blog during her trip.

Correction: John Schwartz, who writes about this stuff for an obscure little website called the New York Times, says: "Oops. it's 1985 on flight STS-51G. January 1986 Challenger, STS-51L, fell apart during ascent, and there were no other flights that year... next one was sept. '88."

Below, a close-up of Ansari just after landing in Kazakhstan, and a snip from one of her blog entries:

The time went by really slowly, but finally the moment arrived and they were ready to open the hatch. Mike and Misha called me closer and told me to take a good whiff because this would be the first time I would smell “SPACE.”

They said it is a very unique smell. As they pulled the hatch open on the Soyuz side, I smelled “SPACE.” It was strange… kind of like burned almond cookie. I said to them, “It smells like cooking” and they both looked at me like I was crazy and exclaimed:”Cooking!”

I said, “Yes… sort of like something is burning… I don’t know it is hard to explain…”

(Thanks to the many BB readers who wrote in, including Ali and Avi)

Update: BoingBoing reader Ivan Reyes says, "Borat was actually on the flight. See photo below."

Click for full image.

Reader comment: Jennifer Saylor says,

Anousheh Ansari isn't the first to describe outer space as smelling like something burnt. In a 2001 "Fresh Air" interview, NASA astronaut Capt. Jerry Linenger describes the smell of space this way:
Flying into MIR, it smells sort of like dirty sweat socks in a guys’ locker room. Actual smell of space, though, that’s a very interesting question. When we would open a hatch, for example, that was exposed to the vacuum of space, uh, there’s always a double hatch, and so you open the one hatch, you now have the pure smell of space. And it’s a uh, tough – you know, any aroma is tough to describe, but it has a distinct smell, and it’s sort of a burned-out, uh, after-the-fire, the next-morning-in-your-fireplace sort of smell. And that’s the real smell of the vacuum of space.
The interview: Link.
Karrie says,
Couldn't help but point out that NASA published a short article speculating on why moondust smells the way it does... Kinda related to the 'smell of space' mentioned in today's article. Link.

Update: This just in -- a snapshot from on board the ISS. Why did Ansari say space smells like burnt almond cookies? Clearly, they were cruising the Cookie Monster Nebula.