Following a record breaking space mission, astronaut Peggy Whitson along with her two fellow astronauts returned to Earth from the International Space Station on September 2. The three astronauts returned home on a Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft which landed in Kazakhstan, Central Asia. Whitson was in space for an extended 288-day mission where she set a new record of being the first American to spend the most collective amount of time in outer space with an accumulated 665 days under her belt.

Her fellow astronauts, Jack Fischer from NASA and Fyodor Yurchikhin from Russia, spent, 136 days in the ISS, respectively.

The Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft landed on earth at 9:21 p.m. EDT on Saturday, September 2, though it was already Sunday, September 3, at the touchdown site.

Peggy Whitson touches down on Earth

The Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft was undocked from the ISS’s Poisk module at 5:58 p.m. EDT. It took the crew three hours and 24 minutes to enter the Earth’s atmosphere and another three hours to battle Earth’s atmosphere and reach the ground. While traveling through Earth’s atmosphere, the Soyuz aircraft reached a speed of over 500 miles per hour and the resultant friction caused the spacecraft to get heated up to a temperature of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the building heat outside the Soyuz aircraft helped the crew to stay in a comparatively cool atmosphere during the plunge.

To slow down the spacecraft a number of parachutes were deployed almost 15 minutes prior to the touchdown of the spaceship. In the last seconds of the touchdown, six soft-landing engines were started to cushion the fall of the spacecraft. The successful touchdown took place near a town called Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

On landing, the Soyuz spacecraft rolled over to its side, which is not unusual for Soyuz crew landings.

The recovery teams that were stationed nearby helped the astronauts get out of the space capsule. Before they head home to their respective countries, they will first have to undergo some on-site medical examinations. While Fischer and Whitson will return to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Yurchikhin to be heading back to Russia's cosmonaut center in Moscow.

Whitson shares her feelings about her stay at the ISS

In an exclusive interview with the NASA, Whitson shared that she is not very comfortable with all the praises that were heaped on her due to her record breaking space stay. She revealed that what is more important than records is the progress scientists are making in terms of space exploration. She also shared that she is thinking of mentoring young space enthusiasts with the knowledge she gathered in her journey, with the hope that one day they will do the same and more.