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NASA's Most Experienced Astronaut Peggy Whitson Returns, Spending 228 Days In Space

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| September 3 , 2017 , 09:56 IST

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson has returned to Earth after finishing a 288-day mission in space, becoming the most experienced NASA astronaut completing a total of 665 days in space across a span of 3 missions.

In Whitson's recent mission to the International Space Station that began in November 2016, she has covered 196.7 million kilometers (122.2 million miles) and 4,623 orbits of Earth.

A Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft containing Whitson, US astronaut Jack Fischer and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin landed in central Kazakhstan at the expected time of 0122 GMT on Sunday.

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According to NASA, Whitson is the eighth on the mostly Russian dominated list of all-time space endurance, marking the maximum number of days completed in space. Yurchikhin who landed along with her, is seventh on the list, logging a total of 673 days in space.

Whitson earned her doctorate in biochemistry in 1985 and worked for NASA as a scientist for seven years before becoming an astronaut in 1997.

During the recent mission, Whitson conducted various experiments with human stem cells, blood samples and grew several crops of Chinese cabbage.

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In an interview from the International Space Station ahead of her return, Whitson said, "I will miss seeing the enchantingly peaceful limb of our Earth from this vantage point. Until the end of my days, my eyes will search the horizon to see that curve."

Regarding her future, Whitson said, "I am not sure what the future holds for me personally, but I envision myself continuing to work on spaceflight programs. My desire to contribute to the spaceflight team as we move forward in our exploration of space has only increased over the years."