Two of the crew onboard of the International Space Station have had their stay extended to almost a year, a record-breaking length of time in space.
The delay of the pair’s return comes amid increasing concern about the longevity of the space station, and concerns that it is suffering potentially dangerous problems.
The two crew members – Nasa astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov – will stay on the floating lab until March 2022, Nasa announced. They arrived in April 2021.
That stay will give Mr Vande Hei the record for the longest stay in space for an American, currently held by Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days on the ISS. (The record for longest stay in space is held by Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov, who spent 437 days on the Mir space station in 1994 et 1995.)
Nasa said the extra time on the space station will be used in part to give scientists greater insight into how the human body reacts to being in microgravity for long periods of time. That could be helpful as they prepare for the Artemis trips back to the Moon – which it hopes are soon followed up with even longer journeys to Mars.
The announcement of the delay to the pair’s return came as crew members – including Mr Vande Hei – continued to conduct important maintenance work on the struggling space station. He took a piece of equipment from the SpaceX Cargo Dragon spaceship that arrived last month, ahead of it being installed on the space station soon.