Russian Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko Breaks World Record for Longest Time in Space

Russian Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko is now the first human to spend the most time in space, Roscomos recently announced. As of February 4, 2024, at 08:30:08 UTC, Kononenko had cumulatively logged over 878 days aboard the International Space Station. The Cosmonaut first reached space in 2008 and his days among the stars are still counting.

Roscosmos Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka previously held this record after spending 878 days, 11 hours, 29 minutes and 48 seconds in space over the course of five missions between 1998 and 2015. However, Kononenko surpassed this record on Feb. 4, and currently on his way to set a new record for humanity.

Kononenko is still serving his fifth mission aboard the orbiting laboratory. He arrived the International Space Station in September 2023 and will remain in orbit until September 2024. Upon the completion of his fifth mission, Oleg Kononenko will have logged a history breaking 1,110 days in space.

This is equivalent to spending over three years among the stars. In fact, this jaw-dropping number of days in space will make Oleg Kononenko the first human to ever spent 1,000 days in space.

“I fly into space to do my favorite thing, not to set records,” Kononenko told Russian news agency TASS. “I am proud of all my achievements, but I am more proud that the record for the total duration of human stay in space is still held by a Russian cosmonaut.”

Why Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko New History Will Inspire Next Generation of Astronauts

The average duration of astronauts aboard the ISS is about six months. This extended duration causes several physical effects on the astronauts. Once astronauts return to Earth after spending about six months in orbit, they often experience intense redistribution of fluid around the body, which may even take some time to complete.

Hence, Kononenko’s achievement in space is truly worthy of celebrating as it takes a lot to spend more than six months in orbit. Astronauts in orbit also suffer bone density and muscle loss. Scientists have discovered that humans in space lose about 1 to 1.5 percent of their mineral bone density in critical parts of their bodies such as the lower limbs and the spine for every month they spent in space.

Even though the orbiting laboratory has numerous exercising equipment, the crew still experience muscle loss despite spending around two hours a day exercising. Hence, because of the health impact of space exploration, it takes astronauts several years to fully recover from a six-month spaceflight.

Researchers revealed that the crew often suffer higher risk of bone fracture, a higher lifetime cancer risk due to exposure to radiation and an increased erectile dysfunction after spending time in orbit. The crew also experiences emotional moments in orbit. Hence, upon completing their mission, they happily reunite with their loved ones.

“I do not feel deprived or isolated,” Kononenko told TASS. “It is only upon returning home that the realization comes that for hundreds of days in my absence the children have been growing up without a papa. No one will return this time to me.”

What lies ahead?

As Roscosmos Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko just became the first human to spend over 878 days in space, the world is looking forward to September 2024 when the cosmonaut will officially complete his mission in orbit. Until date, Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov, remains the only human to spend the longest days in a single spaceflight.

Polyakov broke this history after spending 437 days and 18 hours aboard the Mir space station in 1994 and 1995. While these number of days are fascinating, we should be expecting the next generation of astronauts to spend more days in orbit. In fact, as NASA begins its crewed lunar exploration before the end of this decade, we should be expecting astronauts to spend years conducting numerous experiments on the lunar terrains.

The ISS which was launched in 1998 will be deorbited in the 2030s as some of its parts are becoming weak to operate actively in space. the largest space station ever built by humans was made possible due to collaboration between five space agencies including, NASA, Roscosmos, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency.

However, Russia wants to break out of this partnership as it begins to consider withdrawing from operating in the orbiting laboratory until 2025. However, even before crewed operation aboard the ISS stops, we should be expecting NASA and other agencies to send astronauts to some of these private space stations that will be in active operation in space before 2030.

Hence, we should be expecting more astronauts to reach orbit and set new records for humanity in these future space stations.

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