ISS 'nauts wrap 'historic' 340-day mission

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - Astronaut space/scott-kelly-nasas-1-year-space-twin-returns-today-160301.htm">Scott Kelly returned to Earth on Wednesday after an unprecedented year in space for NASA, landing in barren Kazakhstan with a Russian cosmonaut who shared his whole space station journey.

After undocking from the ISS to begin their voyage home, they performed a separation burn to increase the distance from the station before executing a four-minute, 49-second deorbit burn and landed southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

Understanding in what way the astronauts will recover after a long-duration spaceflight is an important and crucial piece in planning the missions to deep space missions.

Despite the length of their flight, Kelly and Kornienko are still some way shy of the record for the longest single spaceflight, which is held by the Russian Valery Polyakov, who spent 437 consecutive days aboard the Mir space station in the mid-1990s.

The "one-year crew" mission saw Mr Kelly break the record for the longest single stay in space by a U.S. astronaut, while Kornienko is now fifth on the list for lengthiest mission by a Russian cosmonaut.

Combined with his other three trips to space, Kelly has now spent 540 days of his life in orbit.

Last week Kelly admitted space is a harsh environment.

Clearly animated and looking well, he said he didn't feel much different than he did after his five-month station mission five years ago. Kelly and Kornienko were prepared for more strenuous medical checkups in order to measure how their bodies adapt back to gravity after almost a year in space.

Their 340-day mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) is twice the length of a normal stay.

The International Space Station has been continuously occupied since November 2000 and, has been visited by more than 200 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft. He showed no signs of slowing down a few hours later as he waited to board the plane for the long flight back to Houston.

"The mission will continue even after Scott returns", said John Charles, chief scientist of the NASA Human Research Programme.

Interestingly, Kelly's identical twin brother, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, participated in parallel twin studies on Earth to compare the effects of space on the body and mind down to the cellular level.

Kelly made great use of the orbital path of the ISS - a flyover range that covered more than 90 percent of Earth's populated areas - to capture spectacular images. That will include direct comparisons between Scott Kelly and his twin brother ex-astronaut Mike Kelly.

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