Astronaut Peggy Whitson Ends Record-Breaking Space Mission with Smooth Landing

Sunday, 03 Sep, 2017

Whitson was originally scheduled to return from the space station in June, but extended her stay to take advantage of a later opening in Russia's space schedule.

A Soyuz capsule carrying three International Space Station crew members has safely landed on time in Kazakhstan on Sunday, according to NASA.

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

The crew will participate in standard post-flight medical evaluations. Her just-concluded mission lasted 288 days.

Peggy Whitson has spent a total of 665 days in space during her career, more than any other American astronaut.

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.

Whitson, a biochemist, set a breakneck pace on all three of her space station expeditions.

Whitson and two other astronauts landed in Kazakhstan late Saturday, U.S. time.

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She became the world's oldest spacewoman, at age 57, and the most experienced female spacewalker, with 10, following her launch last November. The other astronaut to return home was Jack Fischer, with 136 days in orbit.

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.

Yurchikhin returned to Earth with a total of 673 days in space on his five flights, putting him in seventh place on the all-time endurance list.

With all three seats filled, the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft undocked from the space station's Poisk module at 5:58 p.m. EDT (1758 GMT), kicking off the crew's 3-hour and 24-minute journey back to Earth. I love working up here.

"Trust me, you don't want to know the details", she said via email in response to questions from The Associated Press.

Russia's Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft with three crew members on board is performing a retrograde burn to ensure proper velocity and positioning for a safe landing, a Russian Mission Control center official told TASS on Sunday.

During the interim, thanks to Whitson's extended mission, USA research that otherwise would have been sharply curtailed was able to continue.