Upon his arrival to Earth on September 6, American NASA astronaut and International Space Station (ISS) commander Jeffrey Williams will have spent a United States record total of 534 cumulative days in space.
With 523 days so far, Williams surpassed fellow comrade, retired astronaut, and former ISS commander Scott Kelly’s 520-day tenure on Wednesday. The Expedition 48 mission is his fourth spaceflight and third long-duration stay on the space station, a first for an American. Kelly called Williams from Mission Control in Houston and congratulated him.
A big fan of US national parks, Williams also celebrated the National Park Service’s 100th birthday yesterday by posting a series of images and a tribute video. His father was a seasonal Park Ranger with the National Park Service, taking his family out to the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming every summer.
His record won’t last long
Peggy Whitson will fly up to the ISS in November for a six-month stay. She is NASA’s most experienced female astronaut with 376 days in space.
Whitson’s first space mission was in 2002 and included an extended stay aboard the ISS as a member of Expedition 5. In her second mission in 2007, she was the first female commander of the ISS with Expedition 16.
But neither Whitson nor Williams or Kelly before him will come close to the world record of 879 days held by Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. When Williams returns with 534 space days on his shoulder, he will only be the 14th traveler with the most cumulative days in space, behind 13 Soviets (12 Russians and one Azerbaijani).
From the Army to NASA
Jeffrey Williams has an engineering degree from the U.S. Military Academy. He graduated in 1980 and received his commission in the United States Army. Williams served with the Army at Johnson Space Center from 1987 to 1992. He then trained there as a test pilot and was selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate in 1996.
Subsequently, Williams flew as the flight engineer and lead spacewalker aboard the space shuttle Atlantis’ STS-101 mission in 2000; as a flight engineer for the space station’s Expedition 13 and Expedition 21 in 2006 and 2009, respectively; and as commander of Expedition 22. In the latter mission, he became the first astronaut to interact live with NASA’s social media fans and followers.
The retired Army colonel rocketed to the ISS in March along with two Russians. They will return to Earth via a Russian Soyuz capsule to Kazakhstan on September 7. Williams’ spacewalk on August 19 was the fourth in his career. He will conduct a fifth next week before heading home.