Space Station Commander Sets New U.S. Record

Space Station Commander Sets New U.S. Record
International Space Station commander Peggy Whitson floats in weightlessness while posing for a photograph during her six-month Expedition 16 mission. (Image credit: NASA.)

TheAmerican commander of the International Space Station (ISS) set a new U.S.spaceflight record Wednesday as her crewmate geared up for an extra-longbaseball pitch.

NASAastronaut Peggy Whitson, the station?sfirst female commander, surpassed her 374th day in space to take the U.S.title for most cumulative time spent in orbit. By the time she lands onSaturday with flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko and South Korean astronautSo-yeon Yi, she?ll increase her lead to 377 days in orbit over twospaceflights.

?Well thisis news to me that I?m about to break that record tomorrow. Of course it makesme happy,? Whitson toldreporters Tuesday, adding that she expected to work through the milestone.?It?ll be a day like any other, though.?

ForWhitson?s fellow NASA crewmate Garrett Reisman, today includes an extra orbitalhighlight. The devoted New York Yankees baseball fan will throw out the firstpitch via video during the team?s showdown with the Boston Red Sox tonight.

?Flying inspace is really great, but throwing out the first pitch at a Yankees-Red Soxgame ?I am really excited about it,? Reisman said Tuesday.

A native ofParsippany, N.J, Reisman launched to the ISS on March 11 aboard NASA?s spaceshuttle Endeavour to join the Expedition 16 crew. He carried dirt from theYankees Stadium pitcher?s mound, a Yankees banner and a hat autographed by theteam?s principal owner George Steinbrenner to the station asmementos.

?I amreally honored to have this opportunity in such a historic season in the Housethat Ruth Built, and I would like to thank the Yankees for being so supportiveof our mission up here in space,? Reisman said in a statement. ?From Earth'sorbit, but still deep inside the Yankees Universe, let me say, 'GoYanks!'"

From hisperch aboard the station, 220 miles (354 km) above Earth and flying at 17,500mph (28,163 kph), Reisman said it was hard to pin down exactly where his pitch— which NASA has billed as the ultimate fastball at 5 miles per second — wouldpass over home plate.

?The bestthing about throwing a pitch up here is that it?s impossible to bounce it,? hesaid Tuesday.

A spacerecord revealed

Whitsontook the U.S. spaceflight record from NASA astronaut Mike Foale, who spent 373days, 18 hours and 18 minutes in orbit during six career spaceflights thatincluded a tour as ISS commander during the Expedition 8 mission between 2003and 2004.

As theskipper of the station?s Expedition 16 mission, Whitson is in the 190th day ofher flight and spent just over 185 days aboard the space station as anExpedition 5 flight engineer in 2002. She holds the world record for mostspacewalking time by a female astronaut and is now 20th on the world-wide list ofmost experienced spaceflyers.

At the topof the all-time spaceflight list is Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, asix-time spaceflyer who spent just over 803 days in space across two U.S.shuttle flights and four long-duration missions to the Space Station Mir andISS. Malenchenko, also a Russian cosmonaut, will move up to ninth in thecumulative spaceflight ranks with 515 total days when he lands with Whitson andYi.

Whitson andMalenchenko are handing over control of the ISS over to Expedition 17 commanderSergei Volkov — a second-generation Russian cosmonaut — and flight engineerOleg Kononenko, who arrived at the station with Yi last week.

The twoExpedition 16 spaceflyers are due to land with Yi on the Central Asian steppesof Kazakhstan at about 4:27 a.m. EDT (0827 GMT) on Saturday while Reismanremains aboard the station to join the Expedition 17 mission.

NASA will broadcast the undocking and landing of Yi and the station's Expedition 16 crew live on NASA TV beginning Friday at 9:30 p.m. EDT (0130 April 19 GMT). Click here for's ISS mission updates and NASA TV feed.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.