Russian and French astronauts land on Earth from ISS

Russian and French astronauts land on Earth from ISS

A Russian cosmonaut and a French astronaut have returned to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule after six months at the International Space Station, while their USA crewmate remained on the orbiting laboratory for an extended stay.

While NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who recently became the woman with the most hours in space, has remained on board, two of her crew mates returns on the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft, touching down at 10:10 a.m. after 196 days in space.

One of the returning astronauts, Thomas Pesquet, took this photo of Mt Taranaki during his time in space.

"The space station is such a unique and remote and nearly magical place", Pesquet said. However, due to downsizing from Roscosmos (the agency is temporarily reducing the number of cosmonauts it stations on the ISS from three to two) Whitson will not be accompanying the pair on their journey back to Earth. "And this flight has confirmed these qualities", Malenchenko said.

Pesquet won plaudits at home and overseas as well as over half a million followers on Twitter over the course of his preparations and time in space.

"Thomas has worked in a remarkable fashion", Jean-Yves Le Gall, the head of CNES, France's space agency, told AFP.

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, with 878 days in orbit, is the world's most experienced space flier.

Pesquet underlined the fragility of Earth in an interview to AFP from the ISS.

Thomas Pesquet, 39, is a French aerospace engineer and pilot, who was born in Rouen, France.

"There are things that one understands intellectually, but which one doesn't really get", the 39-year-old said.

The $100 billion ISS space laboratory has been orbiting Earth at about 28,000 kilometres per hour (17,000 miles per hour) since 1998.

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