French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy landed safely on Earth today after leaving the International Space Station in their Russian Soyuz spacecraft – and leaving behind the NASA astronaut who accompanied them on the way up. The Soyuz touched down in the steppes of Kazakhstan at 8:10 p.m. local time (7:10 a.m. PT). Although the capsule came to rest on its side, Pesquet and Novitskiy seemed none the worse for wear. NASA opted to extend the orbital stay for astronaut Peggy Whitson, who flew to the station with the other two last November and now holds the U.S. record for cumulative time in space. The current plan is for Whitson to return to Earth in September with two other spacefliers, NASA’s Jack Fischer and Russia’s Fyodor Yurchikhin. Late next month, NASA’s Randy Bresnik, Russia’s Sergei Ryazansky and Italy’s Paolo Nespoli will ride a Soyuz to the station and join the trio currently in orbit.
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