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Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov, who returned to earth last week after a record 438 days in space, said Monday his odyssey had proved mankind can fly to Mars.

"Our flight and my first steps after landing have proved that we were able to work there on the station, despite spending so much time in space," Polyakov, who is still in quarantine, told reporters from behind a transparent plastic shield.

"It has proved that after hitting Mars, we could carry out some research, work and walk," he said.

Polyakov is one of only five people who have spent more than 300 days in space. In his orbits in Mir he traveled some 250 million miles -- more than the equivalent of a return trip to the sun or seven times the distance to Mars.

Polyakov, a doctor, studied the effects of long-term weightlessness on the human body, using himself as a guinea pig.

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