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New Record Set With 17 People In Earth Orbit At The Same Time

It beat the previous record set in September 2021.

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Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

author

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

Alfredo (he/him) has a PhD in Astrophysics on galaxy evolution and a Master's in Quantum Fields and Fundamental Forces.

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

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 In the front row (from left) are, Expedition 69 Flight Engineer Frank Rubio with Ax-2 crew mates Peggy Whitson, Ali Alqarni, John Shoffner, and Rayyanah Barnawi. In the back (from left) are, Expedition 69 crew mates Andrey Fedyaev, Sultan Alneyadi, Dmitri Petelin, Sergey Prokopyev, Woody Hoburg, and Stephen Bowen.

The Axiom Mission-2 and Expedition 69 crew members join each other for a Crew Farewell Ceremony on May 29, 2023

Image Credit: NASA

On May 30, there were more people in orbit around our planet than there have ever been before. Hailing from five different countries, the 17 astronauts, cosmonauts, and taikonauts, were split between the International Space Station and Tiangong, the Chinese space station. The previous record was set when the privately funded Inspiration4 crew blasted into orbit a couple of years back.

On the International Space Station (ISS), there are the members of Expedition 69, cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitry Petelin, and Andrey Fedyaev from Russia, NASA astronauts Frank Rubio, Stephen Bowen, and Warren Hoburg from the US and Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, the first astronaut from the UAE on a long term mission in space (he even took part in Ramadan in space).

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Also on the ISS, there were the members of the private mission Axiom-2: Commander Peggy Whitson, private astronaut John Shoffner, and Saudi Arabian astronauts Ali AlQarni and Rayyanah Barnawi. Barnawi is the first Arab woman in space and the 600th person to ever orbit Earth. The Axiom-2 crew returned to Earth just a few hours ago.

On Tiangong, there were the three taikonauts of Shenzhou 15 – Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming, and Zhang Lu – and they were joined by the member of Shenzhou 16, taikonauts Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu, and the first civilian taikonaut, Gui Haichao. Shenzhou 15 will come back to Earth in a few days.

This is not the record for the largest number of people in space – it depends on the definition you use for space. If you take the internationally recognized Kármán line – so an altitude of 100 kilometers (62 miles) – the largest number of people in space was on December 11, 2021, when Blue Origin's NS-19 got to 107 kilometers (66 miles) in its 10-minute trip to space and back. There were 19 people in space.

By going with the US definition of space at 80 kilometers (50 miles), that record was broken last week with the suborbital flight of Virgin Galactic Unity 25 on May 25, as the SpaceShipTwo spaceplane VSS Unity carried six people up to 87.2 kilometers (54.2 miles). That made a total (Virgin + Expedition 69 + Shenzhou 15 + Axiom-2) of 20 people in space.


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spaceSpace and Physics
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  • world record,

  • Earth orbit,

  • tiangong

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