Image: Peggy Whitson, Yuri Malenchenko, Yi So-yeon
Mikhail Metzel  /  AP
From left, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, South Korean scientist Yi So-yeon and U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson seen, with a portrait of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, in the background, during a special ceremony in Star City, outside Moscow, Friday, May 23, 2008.
updated 5/23/2008 6:37:36 PM ET 2008-05-23T22:37:36

Russian space officials on Friday honored international space station crew members who suffered through a botched landing in Kazakhstan in their Soyuz capsule last month.

U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and South Korean scientist Yi So-yeon took part in a rain-soaked flower-laying ceremony at the statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, at the Star City training center outside Moscow.

Russian and U.S. space officials gave them medals and flowers as the ceremony moved indoors, and the space travelers were greeted with the traditional Russian welcome of bread and salt.

Due to a technical glitch, the Soyuz TMA-11 craft landed hundreds of miles off course when it hit the barren steppe of northern Kazakhstan on April 11.

It had fallen through the atmosphere faster than usual and facing the wrong way, officials said, because an equipment module failed to separate from the crew's capsule on time. They experienced severe gravitational forces, and communications were disrupted.

The crew was flown to Moscow following the landing for debriefing, after which they told reporters that the rough ride was part of a contingency plan. Days later, officials said their lives had been in danger.

Whitson said Friday that during the descent, she had assumed that their lives were not threatened because the previous crew had landed similarly and survived.

"There was a lot of motion as we were going along, but we had heard about the Expedition 15 crew, and it seemed to me the same thing was happening to us," she said.

"The temperature inside was high, but it was high from the very beginning" of the descent, she said.

Yi had reported being frightened by the experience and was hospitalized when she arrived in Seoul for routine checkups.

"My health is very good," Yi said Friday. "I had a little pain in my back but in all, (I am) completely recovered. I needed some more treatment but it will be OK."

The investigation is continuing, said Mikhail Polukhin, the Russian official in charge of emergency situations. It was the second-straight "ballistic" landing and third since 2003.

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