Russian cosmonauts break record for time spent in space

Oleg Kononenko (center), before his latest launch to the International Space Station in September 2023. Beside him are NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara and Roscosmos cosmonaut Nikolai Chub. Roskosmos/NASA

A Russian cosmonaut has just set a new record for the longest time spent in space.

Set to five missions, Oleg Kononenko as of Sunday has now spent more than 878 days in orbit, or nearly two and a half years.

Kononenko, 59, snatched the record from compatriot Gennady Padalka, who retired in 2017 after five trips to space.

Currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS) some 250 miles above Earth, Kononenko, whose latest mission began in September last year, will return to Earth in seven months, taking his record to 1,110 days in orbit.

“I fly into space to do what I love, not to set records,” said the cosmonaut who first flew into space in 2008. notified Russian news agency Tass. “I have dreamed and aspired to be a cosmonaut since I was a child.”

Kononenko added: “That fascination – the opportunity to fly into space, to live and work in orbit – motivates me to keep flying. I am proud of all my achievements, but I am even prouder that the record for the total length of a human stay in space is still held by a Russian cosmonaut.”

He said that video calls and messages allow him to stay in touch with family and friends on earth, adding that every time he returns to Earth, he always thinks about what he misses most.

“Only after returning home did the realization come that for hundreds of days without my presence, the children grew up without a father,” Kononenko said. “No one will come back to me this time.”

The most number of days accumulated in space by a current NASA astronaut is 678 days by retired American astronaut Peggy Whitson over four missions.

Meanwhile, the record for the longest single stay is held by Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov, who stayed on the Mir space station for 437 days and 18 hours in the mid-1990s. American astronaut Frank Rubio recently set a new single-stay record for NASA astronauts when he returned home in September after spending 371 days in orbit.

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