British astronaut Tim Peake returned to Earth in dramatic style after ending the six-month International Space Station (ISS) mission that earned him an honour from the Queen for "extraordinary service beyond our planet".
His Soyuz space capsule parachuted down to a remote spot in the vast scrubland steppe of Kazakhstan, landing at 10.15am UK time.
First reports said the craft had landed on its side, having been caught by the wind. This is not unusual, according to mission controllers.
Travelling with Peake were crewmates American Nasa astronaut Colonel Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko
A rescue and recovery team raced to the landing site almost 300 miles south west of the major city of Karaganda.
In the last few minutes of the descent the Soyuz was filmed floating through banks of white cloud beneath its huge main parachute canopy, which covers 10,764 square feet.
One second before touchdown six retro-rockets beneath the space capsule are supposed to fire and slow the impact speed to 3mph.
No confirmation has yet been received that the rockets did fire.
Technicians surrounded the capsule to open the hatch and extract Peake and his two crew mates.
The space travellers were pulled one-by-one from the Soyuz and placed in comfortable seats.
Peake had his eyes closed and looked exhausted at first, but then smiled and gave a thumbs up to waiting reporters.
Asked how he felt, he said: "Great, thanks. It was incredible – the best ride I've been on ever.
"I'm just truly elated. The smells of the Earth are so strong. It's just wonderful to feel the fresh air.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the family now."
He added that spending 186 days on the International Space Station was a "life changing experience".
Now he was contemplating treating himself to a "pizza and cold beer", but added that he will miss the view from the space station.
Although, once he arrives in Germany for rehabilitation tomorrow his diet will be carefully controlled.
Perfect places to sleep under the stars
Perfect places to sleep under the stars
'Star beds', which can be rolled out onto outdoor sleeping platforms, are all the rage in the most exclusive safari destinations, but at this small luxury camp, the bathing's alfresco too. After a night drive in the Okavango Delta, you'll return to find a free-standing zinc bath has magically appeared on your candlelit viewing deck. Book through Sanctuary Retreats.
Head far out to sea for the least light polluted skies in the world. Charter a yacht in the Caribbean with Sunsail and you're guaranteed balmy evenings, warm enough to drift off to sleep on deck with the constellations as your ceiling...
Much as we love staycationing, the good old British weather can really put a spanner in the works when it comes to sleeping totally al fresco. After a day of surfing at Widmouth Bay or walking on Bodmin Moor, hole up in his stylish bubble and listen to the rain pelt down while you watch the sun set over the hills, cosy from the heat of the wood burning stove. Book through Canopy & Stars.
If you prefer your stargazing from a position of ultimate comfort and luxury, the Honey Room at this lakeside Relais et Chateaux hotel is for you. Recline on your four poster bed, press a button and hey presto, the cabriolet roof slides back to reveal a starlit sky. If you stay during the annual Perseid meteor shower, legend has it that for every falling star you see, a wish will be granted. Book through L'Albereta.
Make like a cowboy and saddle up for a night under the stars on the remote reservation lands of the Crow Tribe in Montana, aka the 'Big Sky Country'. After a traditional Native American cookout, hunker down with a bedroll and sleeping bag – and pray you don't wake up walking like John Wayne...Book through Ranch Rider.
Also known as the 'Valley of the Moon', this desert area is home to the Zalabia Bedouin, who traditionally sleep in tents made of goat hair. Follow a guided tour on camel or horseback, or hike out into the silence with nothing but a sleeping bag and roll up mattress. Tours with www.gapadventures.co.uk include desert camping, as well as trips to Petra and the Red Sea.
The stars are different down under and what better place to become acquainted with The Southern Cross, the 'Pointer Stars' and the South Pole Star than from a traditional bushman's swag (a kind of waterproof bedroll)? A four day walking safari through the Flinders Ranges will bring you up close and personal with native wildlife and stunning outback scenery, with three nights spent under the night sky in a luxury swag complete with cotton sheets and a thick mattress. Book through Arkaba Walking Safaris.
IThe remote Elqui Valley attracts astronomers from all over the world. If your cosmology knowledge is a little rusty, attend a talk by the resident astronomer before retiring to one of Elqui Domos' seven canvas domes with nifty removable roofs through which to gaze up at the heavens. Book through Journey Latin America.
If you prefer to go it alone and experience some proper wild camping in one of the most remote and spectacular spots in Britain, head up to Sandwood Bay, on the far north west coast of Scotland. The nearest road is four miles away, so pack light. You may be lucky enough to spot dolphins, the ghost of a shipwrecked mariner and mermaids. You will definitely spot stars - and midges - in their millions. To plan a trip to Scotland, visit Visit Scotland.
Far north of the Arctic Circle, it's not just the stars that provide a nocturnal display but the mystical Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. The unique geodesic glass igloos at this Lapland hotel are made from frost-free thermal glass, providing a 360 degree view and ambient temperatures, even when it's -30 c outside. Book through Black Tomato.
Set in 1,000 acres of beautiful moorland, guests can star gaze from the warmth and comfort of their own alfresco hideaway at Slaley Hall. This luxurious outdoor bedroom comes with your very own personal Butler, champagne, lounge seating to enjoy the sunset and a fire pit. The package is £1,150 per couple per night. Make the most of your stay by booking in on the night of the summer solstice on 21st June. The Sleeping Under the Stars package has limited availability on the 21st June, 28th June, 5th July and 12th July 2014 (subject to availability). To book call 01434 673 350.