US Space Champ Whitson Returns To Earth With Fellow Astronaut, Cosmonaut

US Space Champ Whitson Returns To Earth With Fellow Astronaut, Cosmonaut

Besides duration, Whitson set multiple other records while in orbit: world's oldest spacewoman, at age 57, and most experienced female spacewalker, with 10.

According to NASA, Whitson is the eighth on the mostly Russian dominated list of all-time space endurance, marking the maximum number of days completed in space. Eastern Time, landing in Kazakhstan at 9:22 p.m. (7:22 a.m. September 3, local time). Yurchikhin and Fischer joined Whitson in April.

Soyuz MS-04 was the 50th Soyuz to fly to the International Space Station. 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.

They successfully touched down on target in a remote area near the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

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

Altogether, Whitson has spent 665 days in orbit, more than any other American.

Recovery teams watched the landing from helicopters nearby before descending to the landing site to help the space travelers out of their capsule. The other astronaut to return home was Jack Fischer, with 136 days in orbit. Their Soyuz capsule is due to land in Kazakhstan late Saturday, U.S. time.

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She landed with crewmates Jack Fischer of NASA and Fyodor Yurchikhin of Russian space agency Roscosmos just before 2.30am United Kingdom time.

Referring to Whitson by her nickname - space ninja - Bresnik thanked her and wished her well in Japanese, saying "domo arigato gozaimasu, American space ninja Peggy". After a round of medical tests and a stopover in Germany, Whitson will head back to her home in hurricane-hit Houston.

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

"I honestly do think that it is critical that we are continuously breaking records, because that represents us moving forward in exploration", she said. But the Russian decision to downsize its crews in the near term gave NASA the opportunity to fill those seats with U.S. Operating Segment - USOS - crew members. "Their sacrifices for the station and keeping things running up here are incredible". The top spot belongs to Russian Gennady Padalka, with 879 days in space over five flights. Her just-concluded mission lasted 288 days. "So that first 45 days is actually going to be very busy".

It was an emotional farewell to the space station for Whitson, Yurchikhin and Fischer. She will also miss "the enchantingly peaceful limb of our Earth", adding, "Until the end of my days, my eyes will search the horizon to see that curve".

Along with his crewmates Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency), the three- person crew will operate the station until the arrival of three new crew members. On Friday (Sept. 1) Yurchikhin handed over command of the ISS to Bresnik.

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