Record-Setting NASA Astronaut, Crewmates Prepare for Return to Earth

WHITSON TO RETURN FROM SPACE STATION

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and astronaut Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan the morning of July 7, Kazakh time (July 6 Eastern time.) All three will spend approximately four months on the orbital complex, returning to Earth in October.

The biochemist is completing a mission at the International Space Station that began in November 2016, covering 122.2 million miles (196.7 million kilometers) and 4,623 orbits of Earth.

Three space travelers safely returned to Earth from the International Space Station today (Sept. 2) as their Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft touched down on the steppes of Kazakhstan, ending a record-shattering mission for one American crewmember. The crew is also set to go through a standard post-flight medical evaluations.

After earning a doctorate in biochemistry in 1985, Whitson worked as a NASA scientist for seven years before starting as an astronaut in 1997. Whitson's 665 days off the planet, 288 days on this mission alone exceeds that of any other American and any other woman worldwide. Yurchikhin ranks seventh with 673 days aloft over five missions.

The expedition is somehow a bit affected by Hurricane Harvey and NASA is reviewing return plans to Houston of Ms Whitson, Mr Fischer and the science samples landing in the Soyuz spacecraft.

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During the change-of-command ceremony, Bresnik took over from Yurchikhin, who presented him with a symbolic "key to the space station". They should be back in Houston on Sunday night.

"Our home is fine, but so many friends and co-workers have been impacted [by the storm]", Whitson said in an interview with NASA.

The ISS crew will comprise Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazansky, NASA astronaut Randolph Bresnik and ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli.

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. "Having three more months to squeeze is just what I would wish for". By the time the Russians resume their normal three-person staffing, commercial crew ships being built by SpaceX and Boeing should be in operation, allowing NASA to maintain the expanded USOS crew complement.

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