ARKALYK, KAZAKHSTAN – Akihiko Hoshide returned to Earth on Monday after completing a four-month mission to the International Space Station and setting a new record for spacewalks by a Japanese astronaut.
The Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Hoshide and colleagues Yury Malenchenko from Russia and Sunita Williams from the United States parachuted down safely on a plain in Kazakhstan at 7:56 a.m. local time, after undocking from the ISS about three hours earlier and re-entering the atmosphere at an altitude of about 100 km over the Black Sea.
“Thanks to all of you for your support. I’m glad I was born on this beautiful planet Earth,” Hoshide said in Japanese on Twitter before the Soyuz undocked from the ISS.
Hoshide, 43, accomplished three spacewalks during his mission, which lasted for more than 120 days.
His spacewalks for making repairs to the station totaled 21 hours and 23 minutes, surpassing the previous record of 20 hours and five minutes by Soichi Noguchi.
His four-month stay in space was the second mission for Hoshide after his first in 2008. In the latest stay, he conducted experiments inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module — which he helped assemble on his first mission — including releasing small satellites into space and raising a school of killifish.
In future ISS missions involving Japanese, Koichi Wakata, 49, will serve as the first Japanese captain during his stay toward the end of 2013, while Kimiya Yui, 42, a former Air Self-Defense Force test pilot, will travel to the space station in 2015.