Monday, December 18, 2017
News Roundup

Astronaut Peggy Whitson returns to Earth after setting many space records

CAPE CANAVERAL — Astronaut Peggy Whitson returned to Earth late Saturday, wrapping up a record-breaking flight that catapulted her to first place for U.S. space endurance.

Whitson's 665 days off the planet — 288 days on this mission alone — exceeds that of any other American and any other woman worldwide.

She checked out of the International Space Station just hours earlier, along with another American and a Russian. Their Soyuz capsule landed in Kazakhstan shortly after sunrise Sunday — Saturday night back in the U.S.

Whitson was the last one carried from the Soyuz. She immediately received a pair of sunglasses to put on, as she rested in a chair on the barren, wind-swept Kazak steppes. Medical personnel took her pulse, standard practice. She then received a bouquet of flowers with the greeting, "Welcome back, Peggy."

Besides duration, Whitson set multiple other records while in orbit: world's oldest spacewoman, at age 57, and most experienced female spacewalker, with 10. She also became the first woman to command the space station twice following her launch last November.

Returning cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin logged even more time in space: 673 days over five missions. NASA astronaut Jack Fischer returned after 136 days aloft. The men flew up in April.

All three briefly held hands for a photo op, before being carried one by one in their chairs to the medical tent.

It was an emotional farewell to the space station for Whitson, Yurchikhin and Fischer. Before retreating into their Soyuz, they embraced the three colleagues they were leaving behind at the 250-mile-high complex. Yurchikhin patted the inside of the station before floating into his Soyuz for the final time.

The station's newest commander, Randy Bresnik, noted the outpost was losing 1,474 days of spaceflight experience with the departure of Whitson, Yurchikhin and Fischer. Four years and two weeks, he pointed out.

"We are in your debt for the supreme dedication that you guys have to the human mission of exploration," Bresnik told them on the eve of their departure. He offered up special praise for Whitson — "American space ninja" — and wished them all Godspeed.

Yurchikhin is now No. 7 on the world's all-time endurance list, followed by Whitson at No. 8. The top spot belongs to Russian Gennady Padalka, with 879 days in space over five flights.

Whitson, a biochemist, set a breakneck pace on all three of her space station expeditions, continually asking for more — and still more — scientific research to do. Scientists on the ground said it often was hard to keep up with her. She even experimented on food up there, trying to add some pizazz to the standard freeze-dried meals. Tortillas transformed into apple pies on her watch.

Whitson was supposed to fly back in June after a half-year in space. But when an extra seat opened up on this Soyuz, she jumped at the chance to stay in orbit an extra three months. Only one other American — yearlong spaceman Scott Kelly — has spent longer in space on a single mission.

Except for the past week, Whitson said her mission hurried by. She's hungry for pizza and can't wait to use a regular flush toilet again. She's also eager to reunite with her husband, Clarence Sams, a biochemist who also works at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Because of the effects of Hurricane Harvey, NASA could not get its plane from Houston to Kazakhstan in time for the crew's landing. Instead, the European Space Agency offered to transport Whitson and Fischer to Cologne, Germany, where they will meet up with the NASA plane for the final leg of their journey. They were due back in Houston on Sunday night.

Three men remain at the space station: Bresnik, a Russian and an Italian. They will be joined by two Americans and a Russian following liftoff from Kazakhstan on Sept. 12.

     
Comments
Multiple fatalities as Amtrak train derails south of Seattle

Multiple fatalities as Amtrak train derails south of Seattle

TACOMA, Wash. — Authorities say multiple people were killed when an Amtrak passenger train derailed onto Interstate 5 south of Seattle.The train derailed about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Seattle before 8 a.m., spilling at least one train car o...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
ESPN chief Skipper resigns, cites substance abuse problem

ESPN chief Skipper resigns, cites substance abuse problem

NEW YORK — John Skipper, president of the sprawling ESPN sports network, said Monday that he is resigning to treat a substance abuse problem.Skipper’s sudden announcement will force the Walt Disney Co.-owned network to search for new leadership at a ...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Cannon Fodder podcast: Monday night football preview, Bucs vs. Falcons

Cannon Fodder podcast: Monday night football preview, Bucs vs. Falcons

Times Bucs writer Greg Auman has a final preview of tonight’s Bucs-Falcons game — Matt Ryan’s history with the Bucs, how Tampa Bay will handle its absences on defense and a few Ring of Honor hypotheticals as well … Listen below: ...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Top 5 at noon: The hole in DJJ’s beefed-up screening process; can Gruden coach Bucs again?; and more

Top 5 at noon: The hole in DJJ’s beefed-up screening process; can Gruden coach Bucs again?; and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com.ALTHOUGH FLORIDA JUVENILE JUSTICE SAID IT WOULD WEED OUT BAD HIRES, SOMEHOW THIS GUY SLIPPED THROUGHWhile the beefed-up screening governs how the Department of Juvenine Justice hires officers...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Riverview father accused in daughter’s murder tells judge he wants to drop his attorney

Riverview father accused in daughter’s murder tells judge he wants to drop his attorney

TAMPA — Nahshon Shannon wants to drop his attorney.Shannon, accused of murdering his 13-year-old daughter, argued in court Monday morning that Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Spradley should be removed from his case.His main complaint was that Spr...
Updated: 1 hour ago
American Social tries to draw a young Tampa crowd with New York prices

American Social tries to draw a young Tampa crowd with New York prices

TAMPAPaul Greenberg and Rick Mijares believe something. They believe that millennials are nostalgic for a time they didn’t live through. American Social, the long-anticipated waterside restaurant adjacent to Jackson’s on Harbour Island, reads like a ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police: Woman killed in Clearwater drive-by shooting while daughter, 10, in back seat

Police: Woman killed in Clearwater drive-by shooting while daughter, 10, in back seat

CLEARWATER — A Palm Harbor woman was killed in a drive-by shooting while riding with her husband and 10-year-old daughter in a Nissan Sentra late Sunday, police said.Elizabeth Rosado, 30, was in the front passenger seat of the sedan, which was headed...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida gas prices back to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels

Florida gas prices back to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels

Just in time for one of the busiest travel periods of the year, gas prices across Florida are back down to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels. Tampa Bay gas hit $2.30 per gallon today, while state prices averaged $2.37 per gallon, according to AAA, The Auto...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tampa flights affected as Atlanta airport outage creates holiday chaos

Tampa flights affected as Atlanta airport outage creates holiday chaos

ATLANTA — While power has been restored to the world’s busiest airport, the travel woes will linger for days.Thousands of people were stranded Monday morning at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where more than 1,000 flights were gro...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Portion of Lutz Lake Fern Road closed after crash involving motorcycle

TAMPA — A portion of Lutz Lake Fern Road is closed in northwest Hillsborough County following a crash involving a motorcycleHillsborough County deputies say the roadway is expected to be closed between Sunlake Boulevard and Cypress Green Drive for th...
Updated: 3 hours ago