American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth on Wednesday, having spent almost a year in space, participating in an innovative experiment in which they modeled a potential piloted mission to Mars.
“There is a landing,” the Russian flight control confirmed after the trio landed in the southeast of the village of Dzhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan at 11:27 pm ET.
Kelly and Kornienko, who spent 340 days in space, returned with Russian Sergey Volkov, who had been on the ISS for more than five months.
The mission “crew for one year” helped Kelly to break the record for the longest period of continuous stay in space of an astronaut of the United States, while Kornienko is now fifth in the list of Russian cosmonauts.
The couple's stay in space for about a year (the countdown began on March 27 of last year) was the longest stay on the ISS for any astronaut and is considered as a vital experiment in studying how a human body reacts to a long stay in the space environment. Kelly was also part of an experiment where his condition was compared to that of his twin brother Mark, who is on Earth.
“Space travel is the biggest team sport and it’s very important that we all work together to do something that would seem completely impossible,” Kelly told NASA astronaut Tim Kopre on handing over the ISS mission on Monday.
Over the year, Kelly became an avid Internet user on the space station. He shot stunning photographs of cosmic landscapes and posted on his Instagram page, and also regularly posted tweets for his followers (there are about a million) during his flight of 143 million miles (230 million kilometers).
In one of the particularly popular posts, a bald astronaut posted a short video of himself, dressed in a gorilla suit and floating across the station, chasing his colleague.