Currently docked to the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule called Resilience has been in space for more than 84 days, longer than any other American spacecraft.
In the early 1970s, an Apollo command module spent 84 days, one hour and sixteen minutes in space as part of the Skylab 4 mission, the third and final manned mission to Skylab, America’s first space station. . So it had been longer than any other American ship until then. However, this record has just been broken this Sunday, February 7 by the Mission Crew-1 of SpaceX and its “Resilience” capsule.
The spacecraft was illustrated last November by transporting NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, accompanied by Soichi Noguchi, astronaut at JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), to the ISS. Since then, it has always been docked at the station.
Note that this record only concerns American vessels. The longest flight time recorded by a crewed spacecraft to date is 215 days, 8 hours and 22 minutes, fixed by the Russian Soyuz TMA-09 capsule in 2007.
For the occasion, the four astronauts exchanged this Sunday with the pilot of Skylab 4, Ed Gibson, 47 years after his incredible mission. The two other crew members present at the time, Jerry Carr and Bill Pogue, are sadly deceased.
Longer and longer stays
For Gibson, the 84 days ended February 8, 1974 were more than just a record for his vessel. At that time, it was also the longest mission operated by an American astronaut in space. This record was finally broken on June 6, 1995 by astronaut Norm Thagard who spent about 115 days aboard the former Russian space station Mir (this mission involved the launches of two different spacecraft).
Since then, American astronauts have been recording increasingly long stays in space. Scott Kelly, the former NASA astronaut, holds the current US record for a single space flight set at 340 days in March 2016.
As for SpaceX’s “Resilience” capsule, it should bring the crew-1 astronauts back to Earth at the end of March, after about 160 flying days. On paper, the ship is designed to be docked up to 210 days at the station. It is then expected that the Crew-2 mission be launched in the spring to transport four members of expeditions 64 and 65, including the Frenchman Thomas Pesquet.