For most of us, just spending a single day in space would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So put on your envious hats for NASA’s Jeffrey Williams on the International Space Station (ISS), who has now spent more than 521 days in space. This makes him the US astronaut with the most time in space – but his record won’t last too long.
Williams broke the record yesterday, taking him past the previous record holder, Scott Kelly, who had been in space for 520 days across four missions, including the Year in Space mission that saw him remain on the ISS for 12 months along with cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko. Williams has performed the same feat also across four missions, with this being his third long-duration stay of about six months on the ISS.
“I wanted to congratulate you on passing me up here on total number of days in space,” Kelly told Williams in a call to the station from mission control, after the latter had broken the record. “It’s great to see another record broken.”
Williams is set to return to Earth on September 6, which will give him a total of 534 days spent in space. His first mission was aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis in May 2000, helping prepare the ISS for continuous human occupation, which began on November 2 that year. He followed that up with three stays aboard the ISS, across which he performed four spacewalks.
As mentioned, though, the record will be short-lived. On November 16, American Peggy Whitson is scheduled to launch to the ISS for her third stay on the station. She has already been in space for 376 days, and this latest flight will see her clock up to 560 days, giving her the new record for longest time spent by an American in space.
While impressive, this pales in comparison to the all-time record – 879 days in space, set by Russian Gennady Padalka across five missions. He shared time on the ISS with Scott Kelly last year. The longest single spaceflight belongs to Valeri Polyakov, who spent almost 438 days aboard the Mir space station in 1994 and 1995.
But, for now, hats off to Williams. He's now the most experienced US astronaut – for another half a year or so, anyway.