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Space station crew return to earth after 340 days

Scott Kelly
Scott Kelly

Astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth after spending almost a year in space, landing in barren Kazakhstan.

Their Soyuz capsule parachuted onto the central Asian steppes and ended a science-rich mission at the International Space Station that began last March and was deemed a stepping stone to Mars.

It was a triumphant homecoming for the American and Russian after 340 days in space.

Mr Kelly pumped his fist as he emerged from the capsule, then gave a thumbs up. He smiled and chatted with his doctors and others, as photographers crushed around him in the freezing cold.

He said: "The air feels great out here. I have no idea why you guys are all bundled up."

Mr Kelly, 52, and Mr Kornienko, 55, travelled in total 144 million miles through space, circled the world 5,440 times and experienced 10,880 orbital sunrises and sunsets during the longest single spaceflight by an American.

Piloting the Soyuz capsule home was the much fresher and decade younger cosmonaut Sergey Volkov, whose space station stint lasted the typical six months.