Expedition 52 crew lands safely in Kazakhstan

Expedition 52 crew lands safely in Kazakhstan

Whitson's return to Earth on Sunday made her the U.S. space agency NASA's longest flight duration astronaut with 665 days logged during her three missions.

Whitson, who has now completed her third spaceflight, has a career total of 665 days, 22 hours and 22 minutes off the planet, 131 more days than Jeff Williams, the next nearest USA astronaut, and 344 more than the next woman of any nationality, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams.

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

The trio, also including NASA's Jack Fischer and Russia's Fyodor Yurchikhin, landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule, about four and a half hours after their undocking.

The crew's Russian Soyuz capsule touched down in Kazakhstan at 01:21 am GMT on Sunday. She is the world's oldest spacewoman, at age 57, and most experienced female spacewalker, with 10 counts.

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In Whitson's recent mission to the International Space Station that began in November 2016, she has covered 196.7 million kilometers (122.2 million miles) and 4,623 orbits of Earth. Her just-concluded mission lasted 288 days. Yurchikhin ranks seventh with 673 days aloft over five missions.

Fischer returned after 136 days away. She's also eager to reunite with her husband, Clarence Sams, a biochemist who also works at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Russian Fyodor Yurchijin, Americans Jack Fischer and Peggy, members of 52nd expedition to the ISS, landed at 7.21am, near a remote area in Dzhezkazgan.

"I have noted in more than a few interviews that I am not overly comfortable with the praise about the records", said Whitson in her email to the AP.

Scientists on the ground said it was often hard to keep up with her research. "Trust me, you don't want to know the details", she joked.

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Whitson says she's craving pizza - and flush toilets.

Whitson was supposed to fly back in June after a half-year in space, but when an extra seat opened up on Soyuz, she jumped at the chance to stay in orbit an extra three months.

United States space agency NASA aired the entire process, the crew members' last moments at the space station, the undocking of the Soyuz spacecraft and finally their landing. They should be back in Houston on Sunday night.

They will be joined by two NASA astronauts and a Russian, Aleksandr Misurkin, following a scheduled September 12 liftoff from Kazakhstan.

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