Record-Setting Astronaut Returns Home

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: Astronaut Shannon Lucid returned to earth Thursday after a record six months in orbit, eager to drink in the comforts of home. Lucid, whose 188 days and five hours in space set a record for women and Americans, ended her trip with an 8:13 a.m. touchdown at Kennedy Space Center, where her trip had begun in March. Despite Lucid's cheery demeanor while on Russian space station Mir, TIME's Jerry Hannifin reports that she was anxious to return home. "It's no secret she was eager leave behind six months of chemical sponge baths, dehydrated space food and isolation from her family," Hannifin says. The 53-year-old biochemist was greeted by hundreds of well-wishers, including her husband and three grown children. President Clinton sent a letter of congratulations and a huge box of M&Ms emblazoned with the presidential seal. (Lucid had craved the candy throughout her stay on Mir.) NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin met with Lucid after the landing and reported that she was in "great shape." She walked off the shuttle under her own power. Lucid was supposed to return in early August, but equipment trouble and two hurricanes delayed the shuttle's launch and prolonged her stay in orbit by seven weeks. "She has a toughness and she has an ability to perform," Goldin said. "She stuck with it, and this is what's so good about her. She's my hero." Next for Lucid: a shower and a battery of tests to determine the effects of long-term space stay on the human body. Terence Nelan