Cosmonaut Returns To Earth After More Than Two Years In Space

A Russian Cosmonaut named Gennady Padalka has returned to Earth after spending a whopping 879 days in space aboard the International Space Station. Gennady returned to Earth yesterday with Aidyn Aimbetov, an astronaut from Kazakhstan, and Andreas Mogensen, an astronaut from Denmark. The three men landed on the Kazakh steppe yesterday.

Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka has now broken the record for the longest amount of time spent in space by a human. The record was previously held for a decade by another Russian, Seigei Krikalev, who spent 803 days, 9 hours and 41 minutes in space. Pedalka blew Krikalev’s record out of the water by 76 days. This was Gennady’s fourth mission into space. The first time Pedalka commanded a trip to the Russian Space Station Mir in 1998. Pedalka spent 199 days on the Mir Space Station. In 2009, Pedalks commanded a trip to the International Space Station for the very first time. Again, on that first mission to the station, Pedalka spent 199 days in space. Gennaday Pedalka said that he felt “just fine,” after landing back on Earth. The cosmonaut sipped some tea and enjoyed an apple while answering questions from the reporters that surrounded him.

Pedalka, along with the other two astronauts that returned to Earth, Aidyn Aimbetov and Andreas Mogensen, were all taken to the Kazakhstani capital, Astana. There, the three spacemen will meet with the Kazakh President, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Originally part of the Soviet Space Program, the Russians have been actively exploring and attempting to travel to space since 1957. The Soviet Space Program started out as a mostly classified, military projet. However, the program did pioneer several major advances in the field of space flight such as launching the first successful satellite to circle the Earth (Sputnik-1) in 1957, putting the first animal (the dog Laika) into space, putting the first human into a space Earth-orbit, (Yuri Gagarin), putting the first woman into a space Earth-orbit, (Valentina Tereshkova), performing the first spacewalk (Alexey Leonov), providing the first image of the far side of the moon, and establishing the very first space station (Salyut 1).

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the space program went to Russia and the Ukraine. Russia renamed their new space program the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, (Roscosmos), and the Ukraine created the National Space Agency of Ukraine, or NSAU.

[Photo by ESA/Getty Images]