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Astronaut Scott Kelly lands on Earth after 340 days in space

New York Daily News New York Daily News 2/03/2016 Nicole Hensley


Welcome back to Earth, Astronaut Scott Kelly!

After spending 340 days in Earth’s orbit, America’s astronaut with the most time ever logged in space has touched down in Kazakhstan.

Recovery crews hoisted Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov out of the cramped Soyuz capsule after it successfully landed at 11:26 p.m. ET Tuesday.

“They did it! They made it home after a year in space,” NASA mission commentator Rob Navias said.

He described the atmosphere outside the capsule as “selfie-ville,” as throngs of journalists and spaceflight engineers watched the Soyuz capsule and its orange parachute descend through “billowing clouds.”

Search crews on board helicopters and all-terrain vehicles trekked calm, winter weather near Dzhezkazgan in the isolated region bordering Russia and China, to find the module had landed vertically. It required a ladder to carry the three-man crew and their experiments out of the capsule.

Scott Kelly greets recovery crews after being helped out of a Soyuz capsule, ending his 340 days in space. - KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images © Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images Scott Kelly greets recovery crews after being helped out of a Soyuz capsule, ending his 340 days in space. Kelly gave a thumbs up and fist pump to recovery crews from NASA and Roscosmos — Russia’s space agency — who were packed in winter jackets and hats.

“The air feels great out here,” Kelly said after emerging from the Soyuz. “I have no idea why you guys are bundled up.”

The 52-year-old astronaut took a call through a satellite phone, but it’s unclear who was on the other line.

His twin, former astronaut Mark Kelly, took an opportune moment to tease his brother on his triumphant return to solid ground.

“Talk about aliens. He’s been off the planet for a year,” Kelly wrote on Twitter.

Kelly, a New Jersey native, has clocked 5,440 orbits and more than 143 million miles around planet Earth during his year in space to study the year-long exposure of zero-gravity and narrow conditions on the human body. The unique data will prepare scientists for the eventual journey to Mars by comparing it to Kelly’s twin, who spent those 340 days on Earth.

Kelly broke an American record for longest time spent in space, but the ultimate mileage goes to Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov, who spent 437 days on board the Mir space station in 1994 and 1995.

From Kelly’s orbital perch, he watched 10,880 dazzling sunrises and sunsets, many he documented in breathtaking Instagram photos.

His views have included auroras dancing in the Earth’s atmosphere, intricate sand dunes and snow-capped mountains, attracting the attention of nearly a million followers on Twitter.

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