On November 2, 2015, it will have been 15 years that humans have continuously lived in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS). And with that milestone approaching, another has been set: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly has broken the record for the longest time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut.
Kelly now has more than 385 cumulative days of spaceflight, surpassing the previous record by a U.S. astronaut of 363 days, set by Mike Fincke across two trips to the ISS and one aboard a Space Shuttle. Kelly’s time has been spread across four missions, two Space Shuttle flights and two trips to the ISS. He has become renowned for his stunning photography of Earth taken from the orbiting station.
His latest mission is his longest by far; together with cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, they are spending 12 months on the ISS as part of the “Year In Space” mission, the first astronauts to spend that long on the station in a single flight. The mission is being used to test how the human body copes with prolonged spaceflight, with future missions to Mars, lasting about two years, in mind.
“I am halfway into a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station and what a journey it has been,” Kelly wrote in a post on Facebook. “A year really is a long time… a long time to never be able to go outside, or feel the sun on your face, or to see your family through anything besides a computer screen. But a mission to Mars is even longer, and the work we’re doing right now is a huge leap in reaching the goal of sending humans to walk on the Red Planet.”
Kelly is known for his fantastic photography of Earth from space. Scott Kelly/NASA.
On October 29, Kelly will break the U.S. record for the longest single spaceflight when he surpasses Michael Lopez Algeria’s record of 215 days. By the time he returns to Earth on March 3, 2016, Kelly will have spent a total of 522 days in space across his four missions, and 342 days on this mission alone.
However, his records still fall far short of those set for all humans, not just Americans. The record for the most cumulative time in space is 879 days, held by cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who returned to Earth recently on September 12, 2015. And the record for the longest single spaceflight remains at 437 days, set by cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov aboard the Mir space station from January 8, 1994 to March 22, 1995. It will be a long time until that is broken.
Kelly’s latest mission, though, will perhaps be one of the most important as we continue to take steps towards landing humans on Mars