A mission control official in Moscow said at dawn on Friday "they've completed the landing," after the small Soyuz TMA-8 capsule, charred black from re-entry into the atmosphere, landed in northern Kazakhstan.

The craft, returning from the International Space Station, was also carrying Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov and US astronaut Jeff Williams.

The capsule slowed its descent with parachutes and fired rockets to make a soft landing on its side in a field about 80km north of the town of Arkalyk.

A Russian space programme recovery team surrounded the craft, opened the hatch and extracted the cosmonauts.

Magnificent experience

At a farewell ceremony aboard the station just before the landing Ansari said: "This 10 days has been magnificent for me. I hope to be able to have this experience once again in with a bunch of red roses the near future."

Ansari, a 40-year-old US telecoms entrepreneur who left Iran in 1984, was the first female tourist, first female Muslim and first Iranian-born tourist to go into space.

Pink ribbon

Ansari waved and smiled broadly after being presented  with a pink ribbon by the recovery team.

The space travellers were then taken away for medical checks.

There have been three other space tourists, each paying the Russian space programme about $20 million for the trip.

Ansari blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on September 18 along with a fresh US-Russian crew that relieved Vinogradov and Williams on the space station.