Russian space record holder returns safely

  • 12/09/2015
Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka (Reuters)
Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka (Reuters)

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka - who has spent more time in space than anyone else - has returned safely to Earth with two other astronauts from the International Space Station.

Padalka - who has spent a total of 879 days in space over five separate trips - touched down on the barren Kazakh Steppe at 00:51 GMT (12:51pm NZT) on Saturday morning, along with Kazakh cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov and Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen.

"Landing has taken place," confirmed a spokesman from the Russian space agency Roscosmos. "All is well."

Padalka led the 44th expedition at the ISS, breaking a 10-year-old record for the total number of days spent in the cosmos on June 28 when he surpassed the figure of 803 days, nine hours and 41 minutes achieved by Sergei Krikalev, another Russian.

His most recent mission began on March 27 when he blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome with compatriot Mikhail Kornienko and American Scott Kelly.

Mogensen, the first Dane in Space and Aimbetov, the third cosmonaut from his country, had a comparatively short stay at the ISS having entered space in the Soyuz TMA-18M on September 2 and docking two days later on September 4.

Space travel has been one of the few areas of international cooperation between Russia and the West that has not been completely destroyed by the Ukraine crisis.

But the joint space program has still faced difficulties this year.

Russia put the brakes on all space travel for almost three months after the failure of the unmanned Progress freighter in late April.

The doomed ship lost contact with Earth and burnt up in the atmosphere, forcing a group of astronauts to spend an extra month on the ISS.

In May, another Russian spacecraft, a Proton-M rocket carrying a Mexican satellite, malfunctioned and crashed in Siberia soon after its launch.

The ISS has been orbiting the earth at roughly 28,000 kilometres per hour since 1998.