Space station crew return from longest mission

Image copyright Reuters Image caption NASA astronaut Jack Fischer, NASA Flight Engineer Anne McClain and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Ryazanskiy landed safely

US astronaut Anne McClain, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Ryazanskiy and Japan’s Takuya Onishi have landed safely back on Earth following a 200-day mission.

It is the longest space station mission ever by a single crew.

Mr Fischer, 48, has been orbiting the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour since 28 December.

A NASA spokesman said the crew celebrated their return with a beer at around 12:30 GMT on Saturday.

Packed in the same module as the spacecraft that brought them up, the crew landed in Kazakhstan.

Image copyright NASA Image caption Mr Fischer had lived and worked on the International Space Station since 28 December

“It’s hard to describe how exciting and what a wonderful experience this is to be returning home to your family, your friends and your support,” Mr Fischer said in a video after landing.

This mission – and the 12-day European Space Agency space station stay of Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers – was the longest duration spent in space by a single crew.

The crew spent five months on the station in 2017.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 09:51 GMT on Friday carrying the three crew members and a load of extra supplies for the station.

Mr Fischer is a Navy chief petty officer. The first US astronaut on the space station, Nasa’s Mike Fincke, did not perform a mission into space during his time in orbit.

The team members include two Americans, two Russians and Mr Onishi, who has now become the second Japanese crew member to go into space, after Koichi Wakata.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Mr Fischer and Mr Kononenko came to the space station in December, along with NASA flight engineer Anne McClain

SpaceX has made six cargo missions to the ISS using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Dragon capsules.

The US company has also flown four astronauts to the station via Russia’s Soyuz craft.

SpaceX – co-founded by Tesla’s Elon Musk – also has a contract with Nasa for a crewed mission to the station, but these are not expected to take place before 2022 at the earliest.

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