Russian cosmonaut sets new space record, lands with two first-timers in Kazakhstan (PHOTOS)

The Soyuz TMA-16M capsule carrying the crew of Gennady Padalka of Russia, Aidyn Aimbetov of Kazakhstan and Andreas Mogensen of Denmark, descends beneath a parachute just before landing near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, September 12, 2015 © Yuri Kochetkov
Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka has returned to Earth after setting a new record of 879 cumulative days spent in space. He safely touched down on board Soyuz with a Kazakh cosmonaut and the first astronaut from Denmark.

The Soyuz-TMA-16M capsule was carrying Russia’s Gennady Padalka, Kazakhstan’s third cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov, and the first astronaut flying to space under the Danish flag, Andreas Mogensen.

“The capsule landed 146 kilometers [about 90 miles] southeast of the city of Jezkazgan in Karaganda Region in the Republic of Kazakhstan,” a representative told RIA Novosti. The homecoming took place on schedule at 6:51 am local time on Saturday.

“I feel fine,” said Padalka, 57, while sipping tea. 

“Now you need to live on earth for a little bit,” joked Talgat Musabayev, the head of the Kazakh space agency, Kazcosmos, and a veteran of three space flights himself.

The Soyuz TMA-16M capsule carrying the crew of Gennady Padalka of Russia, Aidyn Aimbetov of Kazakhstan and Andreas Mogensen of Denmark, is seen as it lands near the town of Dzhezkazgan (Zhezkazgan), Kazakhstan, September 12, 2015 © Yuri Kochetkov

Padalka returned from the International Space Station (ISS) after spending a record 879 days in orbit. The previous record had been held by fellow cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, who spent 803 days in space. The cosmonaut led the 44th expedition to the ISS, breaking the record on June 28.

The Russian cosmonaut has completed four trips to the ISS in total and is the only person to command the ISS four times.

His latest mission began on March 27 when he blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome along with Russia’s Mikhail Kornienko and American Scott Kelly. Korniyenko and Kelly will be staying in orbit until the spring of 2016 as part of the 45th expedition. 

Padalka’s vast experience contrasted with Aimbetov and Mogensen, who went to space for the first time, spending just 10 days in orbit after taking off from Baikonur cosmodrome on September 2. However, everybody seemed to have endured the landing just fine.

Aimbetov gained the opportunity to join the mission after 54-year-old singer Sarah Brightman, who was training in Russia, postponed her space trip for family reasons. Kazakh space officials, however, stressed that Aimbetov had joined the mission as second flight engineer, not as a space tourist.

The trio is currently being transported to the capital of Astana, where they are scheduled to meet with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.