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Space Record Whitson

Record-breaking astronaut Peggy Whitson has returned to Earth

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Astronaut Peggy Whitson returned to Earth late Saturday, ending her record-setting mission.

Whitson spent a total of 665 cumulative days in space, setting a new record for any other American or woman.

She, along with another American and a Russian, landed in Kazakhstan shortly after sunrise Sunday -- Saturday night back in the U.S. Whitson was the last one carried from the Soyuz capsule, which transported the astronauts back to Earth from the International Space Station.

Beyond the length of her mission, Whitson set multiple other records, including becoming world's oldest spacewoman at the age of 57 and the most experienced female spacewalker. The biochemist also became the first woman to command the space station twice.

The International Space Station's new commander, Randy Bresnik, noted that the departure of NASA astronauts Whitson and Jack Fischer, along with cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, meant that the outpost was losing 1,474 days of spaceflight experience.

"We are in your debt for the supreme dedication that you guys have to the human mission of exploration," Bresnik told them on the eve of their departure.

Yurchikhin is now No. 7 on the world's all-time endurance list, followed by Whitson at No. 8. The top spot still belongs to Russian Gennady Padalka, who accumulated 879 days in space over five flights.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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