American astronaut returns to Earth after career total of 534 days in space

American astronaut Jeff Williams and two Russian flight engineers left the International Space Station (ISS) in order to return to Earth. Over the course of four missions, Williams has spent a total of 534 days in orbit, the longest amount of time spent in space by any American astronaut to date.
Photo Credit: Twitter/Channel 2 News

An American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts strapped themselves inside the Russian Soyuz spacecraft last night (Tuesday) and took off from the ISS in order to land in Kazakhstan.

Station commander American astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian flight engineers Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka left the space station at midnight (Israeli time). “I will certainly miss this view!” wrote Williams on his Twitter account as the caption to a picture of sunlight hitting the Earth. “Vast gratitude toward my crewmates, ground teams, supporting friends, and family.”

58-year-old Williams returned to Earth with a career total of 534 days spent in space, more than any other American astronaut in history. Only 13 astronauts from other countries have stayed in orbit longer than Williams. Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka holds the world record with 878 days in orbit when he was completing five different missions.

Before leaving the ISS, Williams turned over the command of the $100 billion site, which was created by 15 countries, to cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin. Ivanishin will remain on the ISS along with American astronaut Kate Rubins and Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi. “We’ll be missing you here,” said Ivanishin said during a change-of-command ceremony. “Have fun riding though the atmosphere and have a very safe and exceptionally soft landing.”

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