Russia's Gennady Padalka has returned from his fifth space mission spending a cumulative 879 days in space, a new record. The three-person crew touched down safely in Kazakhstan.
A Soyuz capsule carrying the world's most experienced spaceman and two relative rookies touched down safely early Saturday in Kazakhstan, NASA announced via Twitter.
Former station commander Gennady Padalka, 57, returning from the spaceflight with a record 879 days in orbit. The previous record was set by six-time fellow cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, who has a career total 803 days in space.
Also landing safely were two newbies, Kazakh cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov and Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen, both of whom spent less than 10 days in orbit.
More than two years in zero gravity
All three returned to Earth in a Soyuz TMA-16M capsule. They touched down in Kazakhstan on schedule at 6:51 a.m. local time (0051 UTC) Saturday at sunrise, 146 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of Dzhezkazgan.
"There definitely hasn't been time to get homesick," Mogensen, the first Dane in space, told reporters during an inflight press conference on Tuesday. "Time has really, really flown past."
NASA's space station commander Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren remain on the station along with Russia's Mikhail Kornienko, Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko and Japan's Kimiya Yui.
Kelly and Kornienko this week passed the halfway point of a planned year-long stay in orbit, the longest tour of duty in the station's 15-year history.
"I expected this to not be easy. A year is a long time," Kelly said. "You have to pace yourself."
NASA and Russia are using the year-long mission at the ISS to get better insight into how microgravity affects human physical and mental health, and what to do to counter any harmful effects.
In a decade, NASA intends to begin flying astronauts farther beyond the space station, a $100 billion (88.22 billlion euro) research laboratory that orbits about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.
The long-term goal of the U.S. space program is a human expedition to Mars in the 2030s.
jar/bw (Reuters, AP)