European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti has set a new duration record for a single mission for ESA astronauts, Italian astronauts and all female astronauts by spending 200 days in space on the International Space Station. She is scheduled to return to Earth on June 11.
Cristoforetti will be accompanied by NASA astronaut Terry Virts and Soyuz commander Anton Shkaplerov on her way back to Earth.
The three astronauts will close the hatch to their Soyuz spacecraft at around 06:55 GMT. Once they leave the Station their return flight will take just over 200 minutes. Their expected landing time in the Kazakh steppe is 13:43 GMT.
NASA astronaut Sunita Williams spent 195 days in space in 2007, Samantha’s Futura mission will end up beating that stay by five days.
Samantha’s Futura mission was extended following an unexpected delay after Russia’s Progress 59 freighter failed to arrive at the Station.
The extra weeks spent in space were a busy time for the astronauts living on the Space Station: Samantha installed a new water pump in Europe’s space laboratory Columbus, helped move a complete module to another location and upgraded a video recording system.
Samantha, Anton and Terry will leave behind NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka to look after the Station and run experiments. Scott and Mikhail are around a third of the way through their almost one-year stay in space. Three new astronauts will arrive shortly.