Italian astronaut back on Earth after 139 days in space

Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli returned to Earth on Thursday after 139 days in space.

Italian astronaut back on Earth after 139 days in space
Paolo Nespoli pictured ahead of the mission in July this year. Photo: Vyacheslav Oseledko/ AFP

He landed at 9:38 Italian time in Kazakhstan, along with fellow crew members American Randy Bresnik of the United States and Russian Sergei Ryazansky.

To celebrate the final day of his mission to the International Space Station, Nespoli — who is the European Space Agency's oldest working astronaut — shared an incredible timelapse video showing Italy lit up at night.

The return journey took just three hours as the trio travelled at 28,000 kilometers per hour, and Nespoli used a typically Italian simile to describe the feeling of the impact with the ground. According to him, it felt just like “a Fiat 500 in a head-on collision with a large lorry”.

The landing capsule touches down in Kazakhstan. Photo: Dimitry Lovetsky/pool/AFP

The Lombard astronaut first travelled to space in 2007, and this has been his third such mission. In total, he has now spent over 300 days in space – a new record for an Italian astronaut.

READ ALSO: Italian astronaut has first espresso in space

Nespoli spent over four months at the International Space Station this year for a mission named VITA (the Italian term for 'life', which also stands for 'vitality, innovation, technology, and ability) which has seen him carry out dozens of experiments to look at how humans adapt to life in space.

During the mission, he also had the honour of switching on the world's largest Christmas tree in the Umbrian town of Gubbio.

'Astro Paolo' is helped out of the capsule. Photo: Dimitry Lovetsky/Pool/AFP

READ ALSO: Italy to send first woman astronaut to space