Record-breaking American astronaut Peggy Whitson is set to depart the International Space Station (ISS) and return to Earth after completing a 288-day long mission, the US Space agency said.
Whitson and her Expedition 52 crewmates are scheduled to land in Kazakhstan at 9.22 p.m. EDT on Saturday (2.22 a.m. Sunday, BST). Along with the Whitson, fellow Expedition 52 Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA and Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos will undock their Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft.
Whitson is completing a 288-day mission that began in November 2016, spanning 122.2 million miles and 4,623 orbits of Earth - her third long-duration stay on the outpost. At the time of their landing, she will have accrued a total of 665 days in space over the course of her career, breaking Jeff Williams’ standing US record of 534 cumulative days in space, the NASA said in a statement while confirming that Whitson also holds the record for most spacewalks by a female.
Yurchikhin and Fischer, who launched in April, will complete 136 days in space on their return. Yurchikhin will return to Earth with a total of 673 days in space on his five flights, putting him in seventh place on the all-time endurance list. At the time of undocking, Expedition 53 will begin aboard the station under the command of Randy Bresnik.
While living and working aboard the space station, the Expedition 52 crew pursued hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard humanity’s only orbiting laboratory.
Along with his crewmates Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency (ESA), the three-person crew will operate the station until the arrival of three new crew members. Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA and Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos, NASA noted.
You can watch NASA's live online coverage from here. Additionally, you can watch Whitson touching down in real-time via the below video: