Soyuz brings Whitson home after record-setting mission

Delia Watkins
September 3, 2017

She is the only woman astronaut to command ISS twice.

Before closing the hatch to Soyuz, Whitson, Fischer and Yurchikhin said goodbye to Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos, Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency and NASA's Randy Bresnik, who are taking over as Expedition 53 aboard the ISS.

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

Expedition 48-49 backup crew member Peggy Whitson of NASA poses for a photograph as the Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft is rolled out by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Monday, July 4, 2016.

Peggy Whitson has been living in space since November, clocking up 288 days.

Most of the flight went by quickly, she noted, although the last week has seemed to drag by.

Throughout her third mission aboard the station, Whitson spent much of her time on experiments, including studies of cancerous lung tissue and bone cells.

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.

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Astronaut Peggy Whitson is closing out a space streak unmatched by any other American. It was the second longest single flight by a USA astronaut, only surpassed by Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days on the orbiting laboratory from March 2015 to March 2016.

The 57-year-old astronaut - who is also called the "American space ninja" by fellow astronauts - said she feels great after ending her extended 9-month stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

For Fischer and Yurchikhin, the landing marked the end of their 136-day mission, having launched together on Soyuz MS-04 on April 20.

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

Returning cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin has logged even more time in orbit - 673 days over five missions.

The three astronauts had an emotional farewell from the International Space Station, embracing the three colleagues they were leaving behind before they got into the Soyuz.

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. "I love being up here. Having three more months to squeeze is just what I would wish for".

Regarding her future, Whitson said, "I am not sure what the future holds for me personally, but I envision myself continuing to work on spaceflight programs".

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