New record time spent in space

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sergei Krikalev in a space suit

The current International Space Station commander, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev has set a new record of a total of 748 days spent in orbit – almost 2 years, as of Tuesday August 16th, 2005. This outstrips the record set by Sergei Avdeyev's missions on Mir station.

Being in space presents many health concerns – both psychological and physiological difficulties, such as bone loss and radiation exposure. Krikalev's longterm experience of life in space could help to shed light on what physical and mental factors will be needed for future long-duration flights – such as a manned mission to Mars. University of Texas, Austin psychology researcher David Musson is studying the phenomenon of irritability, fatigue, and lack of sleep which many space-travellers experience. He hopes to determine which mental traits will help astronauts and cosmonauts deal with or avoid these problems. He also considers Krikalev's experience important for understanding ways to counter the physical side effects of space-travel, stating that "I imagine he's gotten pretty good over time in adhering to a countermeasure programme to minimise bone mass loss".

Krikalev and his American counterpart John L. Phillips are due to return to Earth on 7 October 2005, but not before celebrating Krikalev's 47th birthday in orbit. They are also expecting to perform two spacewalks. The first of these EVAs is intended to move equipment, install a television camera, and replace experiments.