Jeff Williams, a NASA astronaut has just returned to Earth. The NASA astronaut has now spent a grand total of 534 days in space. He now hold the record for most spacetime for a US astronaut.
Williams was accompanied by Russian cosmonauts Alexey Ovichin and Oleg Skripochka. After spending 172 days on the International Spation Station, the three came back home, and landed safely in Kazakhstan earlier this week.
Willliams’ duties on board the ISS included installing new tech, and doing some repairs. One of these repairs involved Williams working outside the ISS, in space. Williams performed also a number a number of experiments. These scientific experiments will benefit the fields of biology, biotechnology and physical science.
On the ISS three other astronauts stayed behind, Kate Rubins from NASA, Anatoly Ivanishin, Roscomos, and Takuya Onishi, Japan Aerospace Exploratuin Agency. Two weeks from now, three other astronauts will be joining them, Shane Kimborough (NASA), Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko.
The previous US record holder, Scott Kelly, spent 340 days aboard the International Space Station. After he returned from this one year mission, the total time he had spent in space during his career added up to 520 days.
However, neither Williams nor Kelly hold the record for most consecutive days spent away from Earth.
Current World Record Holder Is A Russian Astronaut
That honor goes to Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov. He stayed in the Mir space station for 14 months, between 1994 and 1995. Next comes Sergey Avdeiev, who clocked 380 consecutive days in space, between 1998 and 1999.
The effects of such a prolonged stay in space are still somewhat of a mystery. Apart from their missions in space, NASA is also conducting experiments back on Earth. These experiments hope to assess the psychological and physical effects of living in outer space for such a long time.
In August, they completed an experiment that was supposed to simulate the conditions of a one-year mission to Mars. They aim of the simulation was to help scientists determine what psychological factors are involved in a mission such as this, and the ideal structure for a team.
Scientists are particularly worried about the effects of isolation, and living in a relatively confined space for such a long period. Most astronauts admit that this is one of the most difficult factors to bear.
Many space programs have now set their sights on Mars. They hope to send manned missions to the Red Planet in the near future. If they manage to do so, the trip alone would take one and a half years, when Mars is closest to the Earth. Then, there would be the time spent on the planet itself. And finally, the trip back home, another year and a half. Such a mission would top any current records.
Naturally, there are many technical difficulties involved in such an endeavor. But scientists must also bear in mind how a mission such as this would affect the astronauts on an emotional level. Unfortunately, it will be difficult to assess or account for the psychological dimension of a mission such as this.
Image Source: Flickr