NASA astronaut returns to Earth, after record-smashing 288-day space mission

NASA astronaut returns to Earth, after record-smashing 288-day space mission

Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, who is returning with Whitson and newbie USA astronaut Jack Fischer, will have 673 days under his space belt once he's back on the planet, accumulated over five missions. She was also the first woman to command the space station twice. Only one other American - yearlong spaceman Scott Kelly - has spent longer in space on a single mission. "Trust me, you don't want to know the details", she said via email in response to questions from The Associated Press. Living and working aboard the space station is where I feel like I make the greatest contribution, so I am constantly trying to squeeze every drop out of my time here.

Her Russian counterpart, Yurqihin, boasts even more time in orbit - 673 days for five flights, and American Fisher has 136 days in space behind him.

NASA TV viewers got an eyeful of the ISS as the Soyuz MS-04 drifted away.

She also performed her 10th spacewalk, more than any other woman. She immediately received a pair of sunglasses to put on, as she rested in a chair on the barren, wind-swept Kazak steppes.

In a pre-landing interview, Whitson said that she's "not overly comfortable" with all the praise she's been getting about breaking space records - but was glad to play her part in the space effort. Yurchikhin and Fischer arrived at the orbiting lab in April.

There are three people on board of the ISS now - Russian astronaut Sergey Ryazanski, American astronaut Randolph Breznik and astronaut from the European Space Agency Paolo Nespoli.

The next three spacefliers - NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin - are due for launch to the space station from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on September 12. 12 from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The station's newest commander, Randy Bresnik, noted the outpost was losing 1,474 days of spaceflight experience with the departure of Whitson, Yurchikhin and Fischer.

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Seven Russian men have completed more time in space.

"I will miss the ability to "go for a walk" in a spaceship built for one", commented Whitson.

Russia's Yurchikhin holds the record for spending the longest duration of time in space. Whitson's stay was extended past its original termination time in June, when the Russian space agency decided not to launch a replacement cosmonaut at that time.

Fischer was the 550th person in history to orbit the Earth.

Another view of the MS-04 as it flies away from the ISS.

After brief medical checkouts at the landing site, Whitson, Fischer and Yurchikhin will be flown to to the Kazakh town of Karaganda for a traditional welcoming ceremony.

As a result of the impacts of Hurricane Harvey, NASA is reviewing return plans to Houston.

The space station's crew normally is evenly split between the Russians and the USA segment, with three cosmonauts and three astronauts representing NASA, ESA, Japan and Canada. It traveled a total of 57.5 million miles (92.5 million kilometers) over the course of 2,176 orbits of Earth.

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