Russian crew leaves space station, speeds toward Earth

Russian crew leaves space station, speeds toward Earth

Russian crew leaves space station, speeds toward Earth

With a cumulative 534 days in space over four missions, Williams beat out Scott Kelly's record of 520, which he set earlier this year.

Nasa astronaut Jeff Williams and cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos undocked from the International Space Station at 5.51pm EDT yesterday to begin their trip home.

An American and two Russians are preparing to return to Earth after a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station.

The crew closed the hatch to their Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft at 2:30 p.m. EDT (1830 GMT) this afternoon.

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"Vast gratitude toward my crewmates, ground teams, supporting friends, and family", Williams added.

The mission comes the same day a USA space probe was cleared for launch on Thursday to collect and return samples from an asteroid in hopes of learning more about the origins of life on Earth and perhaps elsewhere in the solar system, NASA said. Thirteen Russians have more time in space than Williams. "Their return will wrap up 172 days in space for the crew since their launch in March 2016". NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov will join the crew aboard the space station on September 23.

NASA's Kate Rubins, Japan's Takuya Onishi and Russia's Anatoly Ivanishin remain on the ISS, awaiting the second half of Expedition 49.

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