NASA record set as spacefliers return to Earth

Image: Soyuz descent
A photo taken by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins shows the Soyuz craft’s fiery descent through Earth’s atmosphere, followed by a blazing trail of debris. (Credit: Kate Rubins via NASA TV)

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams returned to Earth from the International Space Station in the company of two Russian cosmonauts tonight, setting a U.S. spaceflight record in the process.

Today marked 534 days of cumulative time in space for Williams, which makes him the “most experienced U.S. astronaut in history,” NASA spokesman Rob Navias said.

Now-retired astronaut Scott Kelly still holds the U.S. record for consecutive days in space (340 days), but Williams surpassed him in total time, thanks to his three long-term stays on the space station plus a shuttle flight in 2000.

Williams and his Russian crewmates, Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka, touched down in the steppes of Kazakhstan just after sunrise (7:13 a.m. local time Sept. 7, 6:13 p.m. PT Sept. 6), nearly three and a half hours after leaving the station. NASA spokesman Dan Huot, who was reporting from the scene, said the trio’s Russian Soyuz capsule made a bull’s-eye landing.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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