March 12, 2012
Recorde-Setting Astronaut Departs NASA
Michael Lopez-Alegria, NASA's most experienced spacewalker and the American holding the record for the single longest spaceflight mission, has left the agency.
Lopez-Alegria flew on four missions and performed 10 spacewalks during his career. He most recently served in the Flight Crew Operations Directorate at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston as assistant director for the International Space Station (ISS).
During his career, Lopez-Alegria logged more than 257 days in space, including 215 days as commander of the Expedition 14 mission to the ISS, which stands as the single longest spaceflight by an American. Lopez-Alegria also logged more than 67 hours during his 10
spacewalks, more than any other American, and second only in the record books to Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev.
"Mike has been a huge asset to the astronaut office during the course of his career," said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office at Johnson. "His contributions in spacewalking, shuttle, space station and Soyuz operations are notable and very distinguished. Personally, we will miss his humor and insights and wish him all the best."
Lopez-Alegria flew on three space shuttle missions. The first, STS-73 in 1995, focused on science experiments. He then served as NASA's director of operations at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, where he was in charge of American astronauts training for flights to the Russian space station Mir and the ISS.
Lopez-Alegria later flew on STS-92 in 2000 and STS-113 in 2002, delivering critical truss elements to the station.
Expedition 14 Commander Lopez-Alegria and his crew launched to the ISS on a Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 18, 2006. This fourth and final mission earned Lopez-Alegria the spaceflight record. The crew conducted a seven-month mission to operate, maintain, build and use the station and its science facilities. During the expedition, two uncrewed Russian Progress cargo vehicles arrived and departed the station and a space shuttle assembly mission reconfigured the station's power supply. Lopez-Alegria's mission ended with a Soyuz landing on the Kazakh steppe on April 21, 2007.
Image Caption: Astronaut Michael E. Lopez-Alegria in March, 2003 (Credit: NASA)
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