During his fifth space flight, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko broke the record for the most time spent in space, logging 878 days and 12 hours, or two-and-a-half-years.
The Russian space corporation Roscosmos announced on February 4th, that Oleg Kononenko, 59, had surpassed the previous record set by his fellow countryman Gennady Padalka, who spent 878 days, 11 hours, 29 minutes, and 48 seconds in space before retiring in 2017.
Kononenko broke the record while working 263 miles from Earth. “I fly into space to do my favorite thing, not to set records,” the cosmonaut told state news agency Tass in an interview given from the International Space Station (ISS).
He continued, “I am proud of all my achievements, but I am most proud that the record for the total duration of human stay in space is still held by a Russian cosmonaut.”
The space flight he’s currently on is due to end in late September, and, by that time, he will have logged 1,110 days in space.
Record-Setting Russian Space Cosmonaut’s Career
According to the European Space Agency, Kononenko began his careers as an engineer and started training as a cosmonaut when he was thirty-four after joining the group selected for the ISS program. His first venture into space took place soon afterwards in April 2008 and lasted two hundred days.
The cosmonaut told Tass that communication via message and video calls is possible from the ISS, but his return to Earth really made him realize how much of life he had missed out on.
He said, “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 father, [and] no one will return this time to me.”
The record holder also told the Russian state news agency that he exercised regularly in an effort to counter the physical effects of “insidious” weightlessness in space, adding “I do not feel deprived or isolated.”
It has been sixteen years since his first space flight, and he elaborated on how advances in technology have made flight preparation more difficult.
“The profession of a cosmonaut is becoming more complicated,” he revealed. “The systems and experiments are becoming more complicated. I repeat, the preparation has not become easier.”
The ISS is one of the few international collaborations that the US and Russia continue to work closely on since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Roscosmos announced in December that a cross-flight program with NASA had been extended until 2025.
The Guardian reported that the reliability of Russia’s space program, historically the pride of the country, has come into question in recent years. According to the paper, the Russian section of the ISS sprung its third coolant leak in less than a year in October, hinting at what analysts have described as a beleaguered space sector struggling to turn itself around after years of funding shortages.