Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko breaks record for most days in space

How many days would you be willing to spend in zero gravity, sleeping upright, eating rehydrated meals, and going to the toilet strapped to a vacuum?

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko has just become the world record holder, logging a whopping 879 days in space across five trips to the International Space Station.

He’s still up there, and if this mission goes to plan, he’ll have broken 1000 days by the time he lands back on Earth in September – 1,110 days all up.

The previous record holder was also a cosmonaut – Gennady Padalka who clocked 878 days, 11 hours, 29 minutes and 48 seconds, but retired in 2017.

“I fly into space to do my favourite thing, not to set records,” Kononenko told the state news agency Tass in an interview from the ISS.

“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.”

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) do not send astronauts to space for as many days as Russia. This is partially due to radiation limits – NASA has a 600 millisievert (mSv) limit over an astronaut’s career. Depending on where we’re at in the solar cycle, astronauts will end up with about 300 mSv of radiation on the ISS over a year.

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This is still a relatively low amount and is unlikely to increase cancer risk more than a few percentage points above baseline. However, the longer time in space, the larger the risk becomes. This is particularly an issue for longer trips, like to Mars or beyond.

Peggy Whitson has the most cumulative days in space for a NASA astronaut, with 675 days. In the ESA, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet holds the record with 396 days.

Frank Rubio broke the NASA astronaut record for longest single spaceflight back in September with 371 days in space.

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