World / Asia-Pacific

Kazakhstan welcomes cosmonaut after record achievement

By Raushan Nurshayeva in Astana (China Daily) Updated: 2015-09-14 07:57

Kazakhstan welcomes cosmonaut after record achievement

Ground personnel carry Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka after he landed near the town of Dzhezkazgan (Zhezkazgan), Kazakhstan, Sept 12, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

Kazakhstan greeted the world's most experienced space flier and two rookie crewmates over the weekend when they returned from the International Space Station with a bull's-eye parachute landing.

The three, who landed on Saturday southeast of Dzhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan, included Denmark's first astronaut.

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, 57, the former station commander, returned from his fifth spaceflight with a record 879 days in orbit. He broke the record of six-time flier Sergei Krikalev, who has a career total 803 days in space.

Padalka returned with Andreas Mogensen of the European Space Agency, jokingly dubbed "Denmark's Gagarin" after Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and Aidyn Aimbetov, the third Kazakh cosmonaut, both of whom spent fewer than 10 days in orbit.

Several hours later, the trio were taken by helicopter to the airport in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, where Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev gave them a red-carpet reception.

"You've spent so much time in space, but you look great," Nazarbayev told Padalka.

Mogensen said the crew had "a fantastic mission" at the space station, whose nine members represented five different nationalities at the time.

"This is a superb example of what can be achieved when we work together across borders and boundaries," he said.

Nazarbayev gave the crew apples - a symbol of Kazakhstan - before a plane took them to Russia's Star City.

Mogensen and Aimbetov were launched into space with Padalka's replacement, cosmonaut Sergey Volkov, on Sept 2.

That flight was originally to have included British soprano and aspiring space tourist Sarah Brightman. Citing family reasons, Brightman stopped training in May and relinquished her seat to Aimbetov.

Volkov remains aboard the station, along with five crewmates, including newly named commander Scott Kelly from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko.

Last week, Kelly and Kornienko passed the halfway point of a planned yearlong stay in space, the longest tour of duty in the station's 15-year history.

NASA and Russia are using the yearlong mission to gain a better insight into how microgravity affects human physical and mental health and what countermeasures may mitigate any harmful effects.


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