Japanese astronaut Wakata returns from International Space Station

Japanese astronaut Wakata Koichi has returned to Earth from the International Space Station, along with three crewmembers.

Their space capsule splashed down off the US state of Florida around 11 a.m. on Sunday, Japan time.

Wakata had been at the ISS since last October. During his five-month stay, he experienced his first spacewalk and conducted various experiments that would be helpful for future moon and Mars explorations.

The four astronauts left the ISS on board a civilian spacecraft around 4 p.m. on Saturday, Japan time. About 18 hours later, the spacecraft fired its engines and re-entered into Earth's atmosphere.The capsule then opened parachutes for a slow descent.

Wakata appeared from the capsule's hatch smiling, following two other astronauts, around 11:55 a.m. on Sunday, Japan time.

He spent 157 days and some hours in space this time. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency says Wakata now holds the Japanese records for the longest stay both in space and at the ISS.