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U.S. Space Champ Whitson Returns To Earth With Fellow Astronaut, Cosmonaut

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson (file photo)

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson has returned to Earth after completing a record-breaking nine-month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Whitson, who landed on September 3 in Kazakhstan at 7:21 a.m. (0121 GMT/UTC), has spent 655 days in orbit during three missions, longer than any American and more than any other woman ever has.

The 57-year-old left the ISS on September 2 for the trip home aboard the Soyuz capsule along with Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA’s Jack Fisher.

Yurchikhin has spent 673 days in space during five missions, while Fisher has spent 136 days.

Whitson broke the U.S. record of 534 cumulative days in orbit during the mission.

Seven Russian men have completed more time in space. The record-holder is Gennady Padalka, with 878 days in orbit.

Cosmonaut Sergei Ryazansky, NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency remain aboard the ISS.

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

Based on reporting by AP, TASS, dpa, and Reuters