On March 22, 1995, Russian cosmonaut Valeri Vladimirovich Polyakov returned to Earth from space aboard Soyuz TM-20. During this flight (it was Polyakov’s second spaceflight), he completed just over 7,000 orbits of the Earth. On 9 January 1995, after 366 days in space, Polyakov formally broke the spaceflight duration record previously set by the Soviet cosmonauts Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov six years earlier. The previous record was 365 days 22 hours 38 minutes.

Upon returning to Earth, Polyakov spent 437 days, 17 hours, and 58 minutes in space and set the longest duration spaceflight record that still stands.

Today’s (March 22) story of what happened this day in Science, Technology, Astronomy, and Space Exploration history.

Valeri Polyakov

Polyakov was born in Tula in the USSR on 27 April 1942. He actually born Valeri Ivanovich Korshunov but legally changed his name after being adopted by his stepfather in 1957.

After graduating from the 1st Moscow Medical Institute with a doctoral degree, he enrolled in the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems, Ministry of Public Health, Moscow, where he specialized in astronautics medicine.

He was selected as a cosmonaut in Medical Group 3 on 22 March 1972. His first flight into space occurred on Soyuz TM-6 on August 29, 1988. After staying aboard the Mir space station and conducting research for 240 days, Polyakov returned to Earth aboard Soyuz TM-7 on April 27, 1989.

Valeri Polyakov
Valeri Vladimirovich Polyakov. By Mil.ru, CC BY 4.0, Link

Polyakov sets the longest duration spaceflight record

On 8 January 1994, with the launch of the Soyuz TM-18 mission, Polyakov’s second spaceflight, the longest human spaceflight in history has begun.

TM-18 docked with the Mir space station on January 10, 1994. The three cosmonauts were:

  • Viktor Afanasyev (commander, second spaceflight)
  • Yury Usachov (flight engineer, first spaceflight)
  • Valeri Polyakov (research cosmonaut, second and last spaceflight)

The crew did research work in space flight medicine aboard the Mir space station.

The primary goal of this long-duration spaceflight was to learn how the human body would respond to the micro-gravity environment on long-duration missions to Mars. Polyakov was a volunteer.

Polyakov spent 437 days, 17 hours, and 58 minutes aboard the Mir space station, and set the record for the longest time a person has stayed in space (longest-duration spaceflight). That record still stands.

He also broke the record for the most total time in space with 678 days, 16 hours, and 32 minutes, but this record was later broken by Sergey Avdeev on 28 August 1999 with 747 days, 14 hours, and 14 minutes.

The record for most time in space is currently held by the Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka with 878 days, 11 hours, and 31 minutes.

Valeri Polyakov - longest spaceflight record holder
Former Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov (born Valeri Ivanovich Korshunov on April 27, 1942) is the holder of the record for the longest single stay in space in human history, staying aboard the Mir space station for more than 14 months (437 days 18 hours) during one trip. His combined space experience is more than 22 months. Image: Polyakov observes rendezvous operations with the Space Shuttle Discovery on its STS-63 mission through a window on the Mir Core Module in February 1995. Source: Wikipedia

Longest duration spaceflight record for an American

Now the longest duration spaceflight record for an American belongs to Scott Kelly with 340.4 days, but Mark Vande Hei will break this record with 355 days in space as he isn’t expected to return to Earth until March 30, 2022.

Scott Kelly spent a total of 520 days in space.

With 665 days, 22 hours, and 22 minutes, Peggy Whitson holds the most time in space record for an American astronaut.

With 328.6 days, the American astronaut Christina Koch holds the “longest spaceflight by a woman” record.


M. Özgür Nevres
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