NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams came home to Earth Tuesday after spending a record setting 534 days in orbit.
Williams has commanded the International Space Station (ISS) since March, and crushed the previous 520-day record set by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, whose one-year space station mission ended in March. Kelly will still hold the record for longest continuous amount of time in space at 340 days.
“No other U.S. astronaut has Jeff’s time and experience aboard the International Space Station,” Kirk Shireman, ISS program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said in a statement. “From his first flight in 2000, when the station was still under construction, to present day where the focus is science, technology development and fostering commercialization. Jeff even helped prepare the space station for future dockings of commercial spacecraft under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. We’re incredibly proud of what Jeff has accomplished off the Earth for the Earth.”
Thirteen Russians have spent more time in space than Williams. The world record of 879 days in space is currently held by Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka.
NASA has not launched an astronaut into space without the help of the Russians for the last five years, forcing the U.S. to pay Russia tens of millions of dollars for access to the ISS. Russia has repeatedly threatened to block American access to the $150 billion station in response to U.S. sanctions. America paid for 84 percent of the costs associated with building the ISS.
Williams greatly contributed to NASA plans to return to Earth’s orbit riding private sector rockets, some of which are scheduled to launch by the end of next year.
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