On Saturday evening, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, NASA flight engineer Jack Fischer and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin undocked the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft from the International Space Station and began their trip back down to Earth.
It marked the end for the Expedition 52 crew, which had manned the space station together since April.
The descent will be Whitson’s first sensation of Earth’s gravity since she launched in November of 2016. Whitson’s stay was extended past its original termination time in June, when the Russian space agency decided not to launch a replacement cosmonaut at that time.
As part of expeditions, 50, 51 and 52, Whitson has 665 days in space in total, with 288 days on this trip. More than any other woman in history, Whitson has also spent the longest amount of time in space of any American. She is also the first female commander of the ISS. Yurchikhin and Fischer joined Whitson in April.
The undocking was streamed live on NASA TV.
Before closing the hatch to Soyuz, Whitson, Fischer and Yurchikhin said goodbye to Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos, Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency and NASA’s Randy Bresnik, who are taking over as Expedition 53 aboard the ISS.
Russian video footage recorded the undocking from the ISS port, as the space station flew over south eastern Mongolia.
NASA TV viewers got an eyeful of the ISS as the Soyuz MS-04 drifted away.
Footage of the second separation burn that propelled the MS-04 away from the ISS was also taken aboard the space station.
Another view of the MS-04 as it flies away from the ISS.
Back at the ISS, a view was available of the newest Soyuz belonging to Expedition 53 and attached to the space station as it continues its orbit of Earth.
The Soyuz MS-04 carrying Whitson and crew went into deorbit burn around Sunday evening, landing near the town of Zhezkazgan, in Kazakhstan.
Whitson, Fisher and Yurchikhin were assisted in leaving the spacecraft just minutes after landing.
Whitson and Fischer are due back in Houston on Sunday.