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Astronaut Homecoming After 169 Days in Space

Sep 11, 2014 01:27 PM EDT

Three crew members of the International Space Station (ISS) touched down on solid earth for the first time in 169 days on Wednesday, marking an end to one of the most intensive research stints that NASA astronauts and Roscosmos cosmonauts have ever been on.

In July alone, NASA's Commander Steve Swanson, Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov, and Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) were involved in single weeks that involved over 80 hours of research - a record for science and technology research in space.

Now these space jockeys have made it home for a well-deserved break, touching down southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan at 10:23 pm EDT Wednesday, Sept. 10.

According to NASA, Swanson and the cosmonauts experienced some amazing moments during Expedition 40 on the ISS.

Between the three on them, well over 12 hours of spacewalking was done on the outside of the ISS, forcing these explorers to face the beautiful, but dangerous realities of space even just to do mundane things like replace a relay box and scrub ISS windows clean. (Scroll to read on...)

During their time on the ISS, the station orbited Earth more than 2,700 times - a distance of about 71.7 million miles.

Five cargo spacecraft docked with the station during this time, including the 12th successful mission of the private company SpaceX's Dragon craft. The fifth and final European Space Agency (ESA) Automated Transfer Vehicle also made contact with the ISS. The spacecraft bore the name of Belgian physicist Georges Lemaitre, who is considered the father of the Big Bang theory.

Of the three home-comers, Commander Swanson is actually the second most experienced in space. Skvortsov has accumulated 345 days in space on two flights, and with his third space station mission, Swanson now has spent a total of 196 days in space.

Interestingly, Swanson spent most of his time as a pioneer space farmer, cultivating lettuce and tending to experimental robots that may one day make the lives of the ISS crew a little easier.

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