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    NASA’s Christina Koch returned to Earth safely on Thursday after breaking the spaceflight record for female astronauts with a stay of almost 11 months aboard the International Space Station.

    Koch touched down at 0912 GMT on the Kazakh steppe after 328 days in space, along with Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency.

    Koch was shown seated and smiling broadly after being extracted from the Soyuz descent module in the Roscosmos space agency’s video footage from the landing site.

    “I am so overwhelmed and happy right now,” said Koch, who blasted off on March 14 last year.

    US President Donald Trump congratulated Koch on Twitter.

    Local Kazakhs on horseback were among those to witness the capsule landing in the snow-covered steppe as support crews gathered around the three astronauts, NASA commentator Rob Navias said.

    Koch, a 41-year-old Michigan-born engineer, on December 28 beat the previous record for a single spaceflight by a woman of 289 days, set by NASA veteran Peggy Whitson in 2016-17.

    Koch called three-time flyer Whitson, now 60, “a heroine of mine” and a “mentor” in the space programme after she surpassed the record.

    She spoke of her desire to “inspire the next generation of explorers.”

    Koch also made history as one half of the first-ever all-woman spacewalk along with NASA counterpart Jessica Meir,  her classmate from NASA training in October.

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