Wisconsin Astronaut Set To Break Space Record

Expedition 47 Flight Engineer Jeff Williams of NASA presses his hand up to his wife’s through the glass while in quarantine, just prior to launch onboard the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft on Friday, March 18, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz spacecraft with Williams, Soyuz Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineer Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos launched on Saturday.

Courtesy of NASA/Victor Zelentsov

An astronaut from northwestern Wisconsin is set to break the record for the American who has spent the most days in space.

Winter native Jeff Williams arrived safely with his two Russian crewmates at the International Space Station early Sunday morning. The voyage will mark Williams’ fourth space mission.

NASA spokesman Rob Navias said the 58-year-old astronaut will break the record of 520 days in space recently set by Scott Kelly.

“Williams will surpass that mark early in the morning of August 24, to be exact, due to the fact that he’s flown on three long-duration missions now to the International Space Station during his career as an astronaut,” said Navias.

During a trip to his hometown last year, Williams told Wisconsin Public Radio that his young grandchildren are one reason why he wanted to go up for a fourth time.

“They will be old enough to actually go through this experience with me…and remember it for their lifetime,” said Williams. “It won’t be just growing up hearing stories about their grandfather doing the space flights, but they’ll actually be able to follow me through this.”

They won’t be the only kids following the astronaut’s six-month mission. Jeni Wergeland, community outreach director for the Winter School District, said students will speak with Williams through an uplink with NASA in May.

“We really want to take this opportunity to show students that they can go anywhere they choose to and that Winter will help to provide for those things and what they need to do beyond leaving here,” said Wergeland.

Williams said during his visit to Winter last year that he feels a responsibility to give back to those who launched his career.

“And hopefully inspire some of the folks here to maybe look over their current horizons and see opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t know about,” said Williams.

Williams is part of a six-man crew on the International Space Station that is doing research and maintenance. The Wisconsin native joined NASA in 1996 and took part in the building of the International Space Station, which was completed in 2010.

Williams will return to Earth in early September.