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Published: Sun, September 03, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Astronaut Peggy Whitson set to return home after 288 days in space

Astronaut Peggy Whitson set to return home after 288 days in space

NASA all-time space champ Peggy Whitson is back on Earth after a record-breaking flight.

Counting all her flights, she will have logged 665 days in space by the time she lands in Kazakhstan with another USA astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut. Her crewmates, NASA astronaut Jack Fischer and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin both spent 136 days aboard the orbiting laboratory. Their Soyuz capsule is due to land in Kazakhstan late Saturday, U.S. time. Yurchikhin patted the inside of the station before floating into his Soyuz for the final time.

The Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft with Yurchikhin, Fischer and Whitson on board is scheduled to undock the ISS at 00:58 Moscow time on Sunday.

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

The undocking was streamed live on NASA TV.

Launched last November 17 aboard the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft, Whitson logged 288 days in space during her third, extended mission while Yurchikhin and Fischer logged 136 days.

Recovery teams watched the landing from helicopters nearby before descending to the landing site to help the space travelers out of their capsule.

The crew will participate in standard post-flight medical evaluations.

NASA said it would review its schedule for Whitson and Fischer to return to the city.

Whitson's return to Earth on Sunday made her the USA space agency NASA's longest flight duration astronaut with 665 days logged during her three missions. They also conducted a new lung tissue study that explored how stem cells work in the unique microgravity environment of the space station, which may pave the way for future stem cell research in space. "They will be poised in Karaganda to await the arrival of Whitson and Fischer".

Her return home to storm-ravaged Houston, Texas includes a detour to Germany.

The world's most experienced spacewoman returns to Earth this weekend with records galore. "Their sacrifices for the station and keeping things running up here are unbelievable".

"When you think about the days of training that it takes for every single day here in orbit, that four years and two months comes across as many, many lifetimes of normal astronauts and cosmonauts".

"I feel great", the biochemist said during an inflight interview on Monday.

"I am working on paying forward some of the advice and mentoring that I received on my journey, in hopes that one day those young people will do the same and look back on a life in which they leapt at the opportunities and broke their own records", she said. "So that first 45 days is actually going to be very busy".

It marked the end for the Expedition 52 crew, which had manned the space station together since April. Also headed home is Jack Fischer, with 136 days aloft.

Back at the space station, NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazansky will be the only three crewmembers on board until September 12, when the Expedition 52/53 crewmembers arrive.

On Friday, Yurchikhin will hand over station command to NASAs Randy Bresnik.

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