Two American astronauts, Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson, and one Russian Cosmonaut, Fyodor Yurchikhin, made a bittersweet departure from the International Space Station over the weekend.
Image Credit: NASA/YouTube
After undocking from the Earth-orbiting space lab, the crew's Soyuz spacecraft touched down at the Kazakhstan landing site just after sunrise. Medical teams quickly approached the capsule and removed the astronauts to inspect their health.
NASA published the full video of the Soyuz undocking and landing on its YouTube channel for public viewing:
For Whitson, her latest mission was full of emotion because she successfully accumulated 665 space days and surpassed Jeff Williams’ 534 cumulative days in space to set a new record. She is now the most experienced American astronaut to date.
Space agencies frequently shuffle International Space Station visitors around every few months, which naturally makes breaking records like this one challenging. Williams could potentially earn his title back if he were to revisit the International Space Station in the future
Russian cosmonauts are seemingly eons ahead of American flight times. Yurchikhin returned to Earth with 673 space days under his belt, dwarfing Whitson’s new record. But even Yurchikhin’s impressive feat pales in comparison to the 879 space days accumulated by Gennady Padalka, currently considered the most experienced space man in the world.
Before departing the International Space Station, Whitson expressed how she would miss the freedom of floating around in microgravity and performing spacewalks, but she also missed several things about being on Earth, such as eating pizza and having the luxury of flushable toilets.
Whitson participated in one final spacewalk to replace a faulty multiplexer-demultiplexer (MDM) data relay box outside of the International Space Station just a few months earlier. That said, she experienced one last spacewalk before returning home, but now that she's back, she can return to doing the Earthly things she couldn't do in space.
Only three astronauts remain on the International Space Station right now. Citing NASA's website, Expedition 53 will launch later in September to bring that number back up to six and restore rapid scientific research and human resources to the International Space Station.