BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan - After spending nearly a year in space, U.S. astronaut and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kornienko safely landed in a Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft in Kazakhstan at 11:26 p.m. EST after undocking from the International Space Station nearly three-and-a-half hours earlier.
Russian recovery teams will help the crew exit the Soyuz vehicle and adjust to gravity after their stay in space. All three crew members will participate in field tests immediately after landing. Kelly will conduct functional task tests once he is back at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas which will assess how the human body responds to living in microgravity for such a long time.
Kelly and Kornienko participated in a number of studies during their mission, including research into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and the stress of long-duration spaceflight. Kelly’s identical twin brother, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, participated in parallel twin studies on Earth to help scientists compare the effects of space on the body and mind down to the cellular level.
“Scott Kelly’s one-year mission aboard the International Space Station has helped to advance deep space exploration and America’s Journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Scott has become the first American astronaut to spend a year in space, and in so doing, helped us take one giant leap toward putting boots on Mars.”
Kelly and Kornienko launched to the space station on March 27, 2015. The pair’s return on March 1 marks the end of 340 days aboard the International Space Station and almost 143 million miles during their time in space, roughly the same average distance between Earth and Mars.
Kelly has now logged 520 days in space on two flights, the first of which was on space shuttle mission STS-103 in 1998. Kornienko has spent 516 days in space on two flights, the first of which was on Expedition 23/24 in 2010. During the mission, Kelly broke the U.S astronaut records for the most cumulative days and most consecutive days in space.
Photo credit: Roscosmos