International Space Station crew returns safely to Earth

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International Space Station Crew Returns Safely to Earth

Three crew members of the International Space Station Expedition 40 returned to Earth Wednesday after a 169-day stay in orbit.

NASA astronaut Steve Swanson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev touched down in a Soyuz capsule in Kazakhstan.

By the end of their six-month mission, they'd traveled more than 71.7 million miles and completed more than 2,700 orbits around Earth.

The crew was greeted by medics and colleagues handing them watermelons and apples. Daily Mail explains that the fruit was given because the astronauts were craving it and they hoped that it would re-hydrate them.

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International Space Station crew returns safely to Earth
Expedition 40 Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) looks out the window of the Soyuz Capsule just minutes after he and Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos, and, Commander Steve Swanson of NASA, landed in their Soyuz capsule in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Artemyev, Skvortsov and Swanson returned to Earth after more than five months onboard the International Space Station. (AP Photo/NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemiev holds a watermelon, while been examined by medics of a rescue team after landing by Soyuz TMA-12M space craft near the city of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. An American and two Russians landed early Thursday in Kazakhstan after 5 and a half months aboard the International Space Station. They returned in a Russian Soyuz capsule that parachuted down through a clear sky. NASA reported that everything went well; the crewmen smiled and chatted as they were helped out of their spacecraft. (AP Photo/ Maxim Shipenkov, Pool)
Ground support personnel are seen at the landing site after the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft landed with Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson of NASA, and Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev returned to Earth after more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 39 and 40 crews. (AP Photo/NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Ground support personnel are seen waiting to take off in their helicopter from Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan to support the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft landing with Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson of NASA, and Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev returned to Earth after more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 39 and 40 crews. (AP Photo/NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Expedition 40 Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) waves as he is helped out of the Soyuz Capsule just minutes after he and Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos, and Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson of NASA, landed in their Soyuz TMA-12M capsule in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev returned to Earth after more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 39 and 40 crews. (AP Photo/NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Expedition 40 Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), left, Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos, center, and Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson of NASA, sit in chairs outside the Soyuz TMA-12M capsule just minutes after they landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev returned to Earth after more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 39 and 40 crews. (AP Photo/NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Expedition 40 Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, looks up at the sky as he rests in a chair outside the Soyuz Capsule just minutes after he and Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos, and, Commander Steve Swanson of NASA, landed in their Soyuz TMA-12M capsule in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Skvortsov, Artemyev, and Swanson returned to Earth after more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 39 and 40 crews. (AP Photo/NASA/Bill Ingalls)
ZHEZKAZGAN, KAZAKHSTAN - SEPTEMBER 11: Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson of NASA rests in a chair outside the Soyuz capsule just minutes after he and flight engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), landed in their Soyuz TMA-12M capsule Septem 11, 2014 in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev returned to Earth after more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 39 and 40 crews. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
HEZKAZGAN, KAZAKHSTAN - SEPTEMBER 11: Expedition 40 flight engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Commander Steve Swanson of NASA sit outside the Soyuz TMA-12M capsule just minutes after they landed September 11, 2014 in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev returned to Earth after more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 39 and 40 crews. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
ZHEZKAZGAN, KAZAKHSTAN - SEPTEMBER 11: Ground support personnel are seen at the landing site after the Soyuz TMA-12M capsule landed with Expedition 40 flight engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Commander Steve Swanson of NASA capsule September 11, 2014 in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev returned to Earth after more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 39 and 40 crews. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
BAIKONUR, KAZAKHSTAN - MAY 28: In this handout provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Soyuz TMA-13M lifts off from the Russian Baikonour cosmodrome May 28, 2014 in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The three-man crew bound for the International Space Station includes flight engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space A, Soyuz commander Max Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency and flight engineer Reid Wiseman of NASA. (Photo by Joel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images)
(L-R) European Space Agency's German astronaut Alexander Gerst, Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and US NASA astronaut Gregory Wiseman walk after their space suits were tested at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome late on May 28, 2014 . The launch of the Soyuz TMA-13M with the international crew aboard is scheduled early on May 29 local time. AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
Russia's Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft carrying the International Space Station (ISS) crew of European Space Agency's German astronaut Alexander Gerst, Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and US NASA astronaut Gregory Wiseman blasts off from the launch pad at Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome early on May 29, 2014. AFP PHOTO/KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
BAIKONUR, KAZAKHSTAN - MAY 28: In this handout frm NASA, a 30-second exposure capture the Soyuz TMA-13M rocket launching with Expedition 40 Soyuz Commander Maxim Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency (ESA), and Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman of NASA, onboard May 28, 2014 in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Suraev, Gerst and Wiseman will spend the next five and a half months aboard to the International Space Station. (Photo Joel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images)
BAIKONUR, KAZAKHSTAN - MAY 27: (L to R) Expedition 40 Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency (ESA), Soyuz Commander Maxim Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman of NASA, give the thumbs up during a press conference at the Cosmonaut Hotel May 27, 2014 in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Suraev, Roscosmos, Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman of NASA will launch aboard a Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station on May 29. Photo Joel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images)
BAIKONUR, KAZAKHSTAN - MAY 28: Expedition 40 Soyuz Commander Maxim Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) performs the traditional door signing at the Cosmonaut Hotel prior to departing the hotel for launch May 28, 2014 in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Suraev, Gerst and Wiseman will launch aboard a Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station on May 29. (Photo Joel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images)
Russian search and rescue team members pose for a photo with Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemiev, second left in front, Alexander Skvortsov, center, and NASA astronaut Steven Swanson, second right in front, after landing of Soyuz TMA-12M space craft near the city of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. An American and two Russians landed early Thursday in Kazakhstan after 5 and a half months aboard the International Space Station. They returned in a Russian Soyuz capsule that parachuted down through a clear sky. NASA reported that everything went well; the crewmen smiled and chatted as they were helped out of their spacecraft. (AP Photo/ Maxim Shipenkov, Pool)
NASA specialist with Russian search and rescue team members carry U.S. NASA astronaut Steven Swanson after returning to the earth by Soyuz TMA-12M space craft near the city of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. The American and two Russians landed early Thursday in Kazakhstan after 5 and a half months aboard the International Space Station. They returned in a Russian Soyuz capsule that parachuted down through a clear sky. NASA reported that everything went well; the crewmen smiled and chatted as they were helped out of their spacecraft. (AP Photo/ Maxim Shipenkov, Pool)
The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-13M space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off from the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Thursday, May 29, 2014. The Russian rocket carries European Space Agency's German astronaut Alexander Gerst, Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev, and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
In this image released by NASA, European Space Agency's astronaut from Germany Alexander Gerst, top, Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev, bottom, and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, center, crew members of the latest mission to the International Space Station, ISS, wave farewell prior to boarding the Soyuz-FG rocket at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (AP Photo/NASA, Joel Kowsky) MANDATORY CREDIT
An unidentified NASA specialist, left, with Russian search and rescue team members carry NASA astronaut Steven Swanson, center, after landing of Soyuz TMA-12M space craft near the city of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Swanson and two Russians landed early Thursday in Kazakhstan after 5 and a half months aboard the International Space Station. They returned in a Russian Soyuz capsule that parachuted down through a clear sky. NASA reported that everything went well; the crewmen smiled and chatted as they were helped out of their spacecraft. (AP Photo/Maxim Shipenkov, Pool)
Russian search and rescue team members assist Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, center, to get out from a descending capsule of Soyuz TMA-12M space craft near the city of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. An American and two Russians landed early Thursday in Kazakhstan after 5 and a half months aboard the International Space Station. They returned in a Russian Soyuz capsule that parachuted down through a clear sky. NASA reported that everything went well; the crewmen smiled and chatted as they were helped out of their spacecraft. (AP Photo/Maxim Shipenkov, Pool)
Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, center, holds a traditional apple as he talks with search and rescue team members after landing of Soyuz TMA-12M space craft near the city of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. An American and two Russians landed early Thursday in Kazakhstan after 5 and a half months aboard the International Space Station. They returned in a Russian Soyuz capsule that parachuted down through a clear sky. NASA reported that everything went well; the crewmen smiled and chatted as they were helped out of their spacecraft. (AP Photo/ Maxim Shipenkov, pool)
Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemiev holds a watermelon and receives a traditional apple while been examined by medics of a rescue team after landing by Soyuz TMA-12M space craft near the city of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. An American and two Russians landed early Thursday in Kazakhstan after 5 and a half months aboard the International Space Station. They returned in a Russian Soyuz capsule that parachuted down through a clear sky. NASA reported that everything went well; the crewmen smiled and chatted as they were helped out of their spacecraft. (AP Photo/ Maxim Shipenkov, Pool)
Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov looks at the sky after landing near the city of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. An American and two Russians landed early Thursday in Kazakhstan after 5 and a half months aboard the International Space Station. They returned in a Russian Soyuz capsule that parachuted down through a clear sky. NASA reported that everything went well; the crewmen smiled and chatted as they were helped out of their spacecraft. (AP Photo/ Maxim Shipenkov, Pool)
U.S. astronaut Steven Swanson smiles after landing of Soyuz TMA-12M space craft near the city of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Swanson and two Russians landed early Thursday in Kazakhstan after 5 and a half months aboard the International Space Station. They returned in a Russian Soyuz capsule that parachuted down through a clear sky. NASA reported that everything went well; the crewmen smiled and chatted as they were helped out of their spacecraft. (AP Photo/ Maxim Shipenkov, Pool)
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EURONEWS reported that "during their time on board the International Space Station, the returning crew tackled a record number of science experiments, upgraded Robonaut - the station's humanoid robot - and repaired broken equipment."

"We did a lot of maintenance, which is good and bad," CBS quotes Swanson as saying. "I love doing maintenance, but it means things broke."

The crew also conducted microgravity physiology and human health research to gather data on long-duration space flight. U.S. and Russian space agencies are planning to send two crew members to the ISS for an entire year in 2015.

To date, the longest single mission to the ISS was 215.4 days, when Soyuz TMA-9 carried an astronaut and a cosmonaut to orbit. The mission lasted from October 2006 to April 2007.

The ISS itself has been continuously occupied since 2000. Right now there's a three-person crew aboard the ISS, which will expand to six astronauts and cosmonauts after the launch of the next Soyuz capsule Sept. 25.

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