The Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft carrying three crew members from the International Space Station and the torch for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, made a safe return to Earth on Monday, Moscow mission control said.

The capsule, which was ferrying Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, NASA's Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano of Italy back to Earth, landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan.

The trio spent almost five months on board the ISS.

As soon as they emerged from the capsule, Yurchikhin presented the torch to representatives of the Sochi Olympic organizing committee.

The space journey of the torch that will light the Olympic flame at Sochi began last Thursday, when Russia's Mikhail Tyurin, NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio and Japan's Koichi Wakata took it to the ISS aboard the Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft.

Last Saturday, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky made a spacewalk with the torch, which during the five days it remained on board the orbital platform was not lit for safety reasons.

The torch's pre-Olympic route on Earth will be the longest in history, covering more than 65,000 kilometers (40,000 miles) and passing through the hands of 14,000 torchbearers.

The torch began its journey last Oct. 6 in Moscow's Red Square, where it was lit by Russian President Vladimir Putin and it is scheduled to be taken underwater in Siberia's Lake Baikal.

On Oct. 20, the torch was taken to the North Pole on board the world's largest nuclear-powered icebreaker. EFE