'The air feels great out here' says astronaut Scott Kelly as he returns to Earth after 340 days in space

Astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko have returned to Earth after spending almost a year in space.

Scott Kelly being helped by ground personnel in Kazakhstan (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AP)

Their Soyuz capsule parachuted onto the central Asian steppes of barren Kazakhstan and ended their long mission at the International Space Station that began last March and was considered a stepping stone to Mars.

Mikhail Kornienko, left, reading notes next to Sergey Volkov, centre, while Kelly uses a sat phone as they rest in chairs outside the Soyuz TMA-18M space capsule (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AP)

It was a triumphant homecoming for the American and Russian after 340 days in space.

Search and rescue team at the landing site of the Soyuz TMA-18M space capsule (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AP)

Kelly pumped his fist as he emerged from the capsule, then gave a thumbs up.

Mikhail Kornienko in high spirits after landing (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AP)

He smiled and chatted with his doctors and other staff, as photographers crushed around him in the freezing cold.

The parachute carrying the Soyuz capsule on the last leg of its return journey to the town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AP)

Kelly said: “The air feels great out here. I have no idea why you guys are all bundled up.”

Kornienko inside the Soyuz-TMA-18M space capsule after landing (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AP)

Kelly, 52, and Kornienko, 55, travelled in total 144 million miles through space, circled the Earth 5,440 times and experienced 10,880 orbital sunrises and sunsets during the longest single spaceflight by an American.

Kornienko being carried out of the capsule (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AP)

Piloting the Soyuz capsule home was the much fresher and decade-younger cosmonaut Sergey Volkov, whose space station stint lasted the typical six months.


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