WELCOME HOME: Astronaut Scott Kelly Safe On Earth After Year In Space (UPDATE)

After 340 days and 5,440 trips around Earth, the American is home.

03/01/2016 09:25 am ET | Updated Mar 02, 2016

For the first time in 340 days, American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko are back on solid ground.

At 11:26 p.m. EST Tuesday, the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft safely touched down southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

"They did it! They're home after a year in space and they stuck the landing," NASA spokesman Rob Navias said during a live webcast.

At 8:02 p.m., the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft, carrying Kelly, Kornienko and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Volkov, undocked from the International Space Station to begin its approximately 3.5-hour voyage to Earth. 

Kelly and Kornienko will once again get to experience fresh, running water (no more drinking recycled urine and sweat), a mere one sunrise and sunset per day (instead of 16 of each), and, oh yes, that all-but-forgotten force called gravity.

See below for NASA Television's full coverage of Kelly's return to Earth, which began at 4:15 p.m. EST with a farewell and hatch closure. 

The yearlong mission aboard the International Space Station will help NASA better understand how the human body reacts and adapts to long-duration spaceflight, as the agency develops capabilities for manned missions to Mars by the 2030s

"I'd like for the legacy of this flight to be that we can decide to do hard things, and hard things that will take us farther away from the Earth," Kelly said during his last news conference from orbit last Thursday. "I'd like to think that this is another of many stepping stones to us landing on Mars sometime in our future."

Kelly added that when he thinks about the ISS -- a 1 million-pound, football field-sized laboratory that flies around the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour -- he feels there's nothing man can't accomplish

"If we can dream it, you know, we can do it -- if we really want to," he said.

NASA
Until a manned Mars mission, Kelly will just have to settle for the simple pleasures of life on Earth, like going for a stroll and eating food that stays put on a plate.

During their year in space, Kelly and Kornienko orbited Earth 5,440 times, traveling a total 143,846,525 miles, according to NASA.

The 340-day mission falls a few weeks shy of a full year. Still, Kelly will return to Earth with the record among U.S. astronauts for both consecutive days and cumulative time (520 days) in space. Russian Valeri Polyakov holds the all-time record for consecutive time in space, spending 438 days aboard the Russian Mir space station back in 1994 and 1995.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
One-year mission crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko celebrate their 300th consecutive day in space on Jan. 21.

Kelly said that while he's not "climbing the walls" of his home-away-from-home and could go another 100 days, or even another year in the "harsh environment" if necessary, he is excited about returning to civilization.

"It's kind of like I've been in the woods camping for a year, with regards to hygiene," he said. "And then the fact that everything floats makes your daily life just more difficult."

NASA
This infographic highlights a few of the many human health issues and milestones Astronaut Scott Kelly has encountered during his year in space.

Among the things Kelly said he misses most in space are the company of people, especially his family, and the weather.

"Going outside, there's no sun on your face. ... You never feel this cool breeze. It's always exactly the same," he said in a recent PBS video clip, part of a two-part series titled "A Year In Space" that premieres Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST.

He said the simple gravitational pleasure of jumping in his pool is at the top of his to-do list once he arrives home in Houston.

During a live broadcast on Monday, Kelly handed over command of the orbiting lab to American astronaut Tim Kopra. Nearing the end of his fourth mission in space, Kelly said leaving the station is "always bittersweet."

"Spaceflight is the biggest team sport there is, and it's incredibly important that we all work together to make what is seemingly impossible, possible," he said during the broadcast.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Commander Scott Kelly participates in a spacewalk outside the International Space Station in December.

NASA Television's coverage will continue with Kelly's return to Houston on Wednesday and post-flight briefings Friday.

Lucky for us, Kelly's recent journey to space will live on through his photography. In between the hundreds of experiments he conducted during his mission, Kelly found time to photograph Earth from his unique vantage point. The results have been nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Scroll through the images below.

15 Mesmerizing Photos From Scott Kelly's Year In Space

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