Record Breaking Cosmonaut Padalka Returns Home Tonight EDT – UPDATE

Record Breaking Cosmonaut Padalka Returns Home Tonight EDT – UPDATE

UPDATE, September 11, 2015, 8:55 pm EDT:  Soyuz TMA-16M landed on time at 8:51:36 pm EDT (6:51:36 am local time September 12 at the landing site in Kazakhstan.)

ORIGINAL STORY, September 11, 2015, 10:43 am EDT: Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka will return to Earth tonight Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) after completing more than five months aboard the International Space Station (ISS).  Added to four previous spaceflights, he sets a new record of 879 cumulative days in space, surpassing the record held by his compatriot Sergei Kirkalev.  Padalka and two short-duration ISS crew members are scheduled to land on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 8:51 pm EDT (which will be 6:51 am tomorrow, September 12, local time at the landing site).

Padalka launched on Soyuz TMA-16M last March along with NASA’s Scott Kelly and Russia’s Mikhail Kornienko.  Those two are remaining aboard ISS for a year-long mission, but the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft has only a 6-month lifetime, so it must return to Earth and Padalka is its commander.   Accompanying him on the return leg are European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen (from Denmark) and Kazakh cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov.  Mogensen and Aimbetov arrived just seven days ago on Soyuz TMA-18M.  That spacecraft replaces TMA-16M as a new ferry/lifeboat and its commander, Sergei Volkov, replaces Padalka.  

Nine people have been aboard ISS since the Soyuz TMA-18M crew arrived.  The ISS will return to its usual crew complement of six when Padalka, Mogensen and Aimbetov undock at 5:29 pm EDT.  The remaining six are Kelly, Kornienko, Volkov and the three men who arrived on Soyuz TMA-17M in July (NASA’s Kjell Lindgren, Japan’s Kimiya Yui and Russia’s Oleg Kononenko).

Padalka’s first spaceflight, Soyuz TM-28, was to Russia’s Mir space station from August 1998 to February 1999 for a total of 199 days (durations listed here are rounded to the nearest day).  

He then made four trips to ISS:

  • Soyuz TMA-4, April-October 2004, 188 days
  • Soyuz TMA-14, March-October 2009, 199 days
  • Soyuz TMA-04M, May-September 2012, 125 days
  • Soyuz TMA-16M, March-September 2015, 168 days (once he lands)

Padalka’s record is for the most amount of time spent in space, but it was accumulated over all those missions.  The record for total consecutive days in space is still held by Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov who spent 438 days aboard the Mir space station in 1994-1995.  Polyakov previously had spent 241 days aboard Mir on a flight in 1988-1989.

Long duration spaceflights like Polyakov’s are of special interest for studies of how humans react physiologically and psychologically to spaceflight conditions over the time periods anticipated for flights to destinations like Mars.   Polyakov is one of only four people — all Russians — who have spent at least one year in space at one time.  Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov spent 365 days together on Mir in 1987-1988.  Sergei Avdeyev spent 380 days on Mir in 1998-1999.  In all cases, other crews came and went during that time.

Scott Kelly will become the first American to spend a year in space.  He and Kornienko are approaching the half way mark of their year-in-space mission.  That point will be reached on September 15.  On Monday, September 14, the National Press Club in Washington, DC will host a press conference with Kelly via videolink from the ISS and his twin brother, former astronaut Mark Kelly, and Terry Virts, who recently returned from the ISS, in person.  The Kelly brothers are identical twins and are participating in twin studies related to Scott Kelly’s long duration spaceflight.

NASA TV will cover today’s undocking and landing of Soyuz TMA-16M and a portion of Monday’s press conference.

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