Over the course of three trips, Whitson has now spent 665 days off the planet, including 288 days on this mission – a total that exceeds any other American, and any other woman worldwide. However, it falls short of Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka's 878 days across five flights, a record set in 2015.
That wasn't the only record that Whitson set in space, however. She became the world's oldest woman astronaut at age 57, the most experienced female spacewalker with ten sorties, and the first woman to command the International Space Station twice.
Sunglasses and deckchairs
As Whitson was carried from the Soyuz capsule alongside cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and astronaut Jack Fischer, the trio were handed a pair of sunglasses and placed in chairs where medical personnel carried out checks.
Her tenure aboard the space station was marked by a relentless appetite for more scientific experiments to perform. Researchers on Earth said it was often hard to keep up with her. She also spent some time inventing new food for the astronauts to eat, including apple pies.
Whitson told the assembled media that she was eager to see her husband again, and was looking forward to eating pizza and using a regular flushing toilet.
Three men remain on the International Space Station. They'll be joined by two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut on September 12.