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Russian cosmonaut back after record 879 days in space
by Staff Writers
Astana, Kazakhstan (AFP) Sept 12, 2015

Russian cosmonaut breaks record for most time in space
Baikonur, Kazakhstan (UPI) Sep 12, 2015 -Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka returned to Earth from the International Space Station late Friday as the world's most experienced space explorer, spending a record 879 days in orbit.

Padalka, 57, of the Russian Federal Space Agency, and two other ISS crew mates -- Andreas Mogensen of the European Space Agency and Aidyn Aimbetov of the Kazakh Space Agency -- touched down in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft near the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan, some three hours after leaving the ISS.

The landing marks Padalka's fifth mission, with a total of 879 days in space. The previous record was held by six-time flier Sergei Krikalev, who had totaled 803 days in space.

Bid farewell to 3 crew mates aboard @space_station. #Soyuz that brought me here will bring them home.

Padalka arrived on the $100 billion orbiting laboratory on March 27, along with NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos. Padalka spent 168 days in space in this trip, traveling more than 71 million miles.

Mogensen, Denmark's first astronaut, and Aimbetov arrived on the ISS on Sept. 4 for a short trip.

Six astronauts remain on the ISS, including NASA's Scott Kelly. Kelly, along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, will remain on board for one full year, about twice as long as the typical stay.

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka returned safely to Earth with two other astronauts from the International Space Station Saturday with the record for having spent the most time in space.

Padalka -- who has spent a total of 879 days in space over five separate trips -- touched ground on the barren Kazakh steppe on schedule at 0051 GMT along with Kazakh cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov and Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen.

"Landing has taken place," a spokesman for Russia's space agency Roscosmos told AFP. "All is well."

Padalka led the 44th expedition at the ISS, breaking a 10-year-old record for the total number of days spent in the cosmos on June 28 when he surpassed the figure of 803 days, nine hours and 41 minutes achieved by Sergei Krikalev, another Russian.

His most recent mission began on March 27 when he blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome with compatriot Mikhail Kornienko and American Scott Kelly.

Mogensen, the first Dane in Space and Aimbetov, the third cosmonaut from his country, had a comparatively short stay at the ISS having entered space in the Soyuz TMA-18M on September 2 and docking two days later on September 4.

"I feel fine," said Padalka as he sat sipping tea and nibbling on an apple surrounded by Russian space officials following his historic re-entry.

"Now you need to live on earth for a little bit," joked Talgat Musabayev head of the Kazakh space agency Kazcosmos and a veteran of three space flights.

Padalka made four trips to ISS in total.

His first ever journey into space was to visit Russia's Mir space station in 1998.

The Mir visit was matched in duration only by his second visit to ISS in 2009, with both lasting 199 days.

He is the only person to command the ISS four times.

The three-man crew completed a "perfect" de-orbit burn to re-enter the earth's atmosphere at just after 00.00 GMT according to NASA television before a "bullseye landing" roughly 146 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of the Kazakh settlement of Dzhezkazgan less than an hour later.

"That's it guys you can relax now" Padalka said to his crew as the landing approached.

The trio are being taken to the airport in the Kazakhstani capital of Astana where they will be received by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Space travel has been one of the few areas of international cooperation between Russia and the West that has not been completely destroyed by the Ukraine crisis.

But the joint space program has still faced difficulties this year.

Russia put the breaks on all space travel for almost 3 months after the failure of the unmanned Progress freighter in late April.

The doomed ship lost contact with Earth and burned up in the atmosphere, forcing a group of astronauts to spend an extra month on the ISS.

In May, another Russian spacecraft, a Proton-M rocket carrying a Mexican satellite, malfunctioned and crashed in Siberia soon after its launch.

The roughly $150 billion ISS has been orbiting the earth at roughly 28,000 kilometres per hour since 1998.

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