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Record-Breaking Astronaut Jeff Williams Returns to Earth

U.S. astronaut Jeff Williams safely landed back on Earth after setting a new record for the most time spent in space by an American.


When NASA astronaut Jeff Williams returned to Earth from the International Space Station on Sept. 6, he had been in space for 172 days. Adding those days to his three previous space flights, Williams has spent a total of 534 days off the planet, the longest for a NASA astronaut. The previous record holder, Scott Kelly, logged a three-flight total of 520 days.

Above: Jeff Williams monitors bowling ball-sized internal satellites known as SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) during a maintenance run in the International Space Station's Japanese Kibo Laboratory Module on June 30, 2016.

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During his 172 days in orbit as Expedition 48 commander, Williams and others conducted hundreds of experiments and technology demonstrations.

Here, Williams works with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, unseen, as they successfully installed a new international docking adapter on Aug. 19, 2016 during a five-hour and 58-minute spacewalk. The adapter will enable future crew vehicles from Boeing and SpaceX to dock at the station.

Kate Rubins / NASA
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During his time on the space station, Williams dazzled those back on Earth with stunning images he posted to Twitter. Here, Williams captured the brilliant lights of an aurora on June 24, 2016, from the cupola, a seven-windowed dome that offers panoramic views of Earth.

JEFF WILLIAMS / NASA via AFP - Getty Images
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The Soyuz TMA-19M capsule carrying Williams, Russian cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka descends beneath a parachute near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Sept. 7, 2016.

Maxim Shipenkov / Pool via AP
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The Soyuz capsule touches down near Zhezkazgan, three hours after leaving the space station.
Maxim Shipenkov / Pool via AP
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From left, Jeff Williams and cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka are viewed through the open hatch of the Soyuz capsule after landing.

Bill Ingalls / NASA via Reuters
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A search and rescue team approaches the Soyuz capsule after its landing.
Bill Ingalls / NASA
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Ground personnel carry Williams away from the capsule.

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PHOTOS: Scott Kelly's Year in Space

Maxim Shipenkov / Pool via Reuters
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