Nasa astronaut Christina Koch, who has spent nearly 11 months in orbit on the longest spaceflight by a woman, has landed safely in Kazakhstan along with two of her International Space Station crewmates.
The Soyuz capsule carrying Ms Koch, along with station commander Luca Parmitano, of the European Space Agency, and Alexander Skvortsov, from Russian space agency Roscosmos, touched down south east of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 3.12pm local time (9.12am GMT).
Ms Koch wrapped up a 328-day mission on her first flight into space, providing researchers with the opportunity to observe the effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman.
The study is important since Nasa plans to return to the moon under the Artemis programme and prepare for the human exploration of Mars.
.@Astro_Christina completes a record 328-day mission in space returning to Earth with @Astro_Luca and Alexander Skvortsov both of whom completed 201 days in space. Read more... https://t.co/9L8Zb7hFrt pic.twitter.com/MMwoCj1QaP— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) February 6, 2020
Ms Koch smiled and gave a thumbs-up as support crew helped her get out of the capsule and placed her in a chair for a quick post-flight check-up alongside her crewmates.
Russian space officials said they were in good shape.
Ms Koch, who grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and now lives near the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, Texas, with her husband Bob, said last month that taking part in the first all-female spacewalk was the highlight of her mission.
She said she and fellow Nasa astronaut Jessica Meir appreciated that the October 18 spacewalk “could serve as an inspiration for future space explorers”.
.@Astro_Christina, @Astro_Luca and Alexander Skvortsov said farewell to their station crewmates and closed the Soyuz crew ship hatch at 9:34pm ET. They will undock at 12:50am. Read more... https://t.co/zIndx8dezP pic.twitter.com/Czm9R5bcUP— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) February 6, 2020
Mr Parmitano and Mr Skvortsov spent 201 days in space.
After preliminary medical evaluations, the crew will be flown by Russian helicopters to the city of Karaganda in Kazakhstan.
Ms Koch and Mr Parmitano will then board a Nasa plane bound for Cologne, Germany, where Mr Parmitano will be greeted by European space officials before Ms Koch proceeds home to Houston.
Mr Skvortsov will be flown to the Star City Cosmonaut Training Centre outside Moscow.