The total number of humans in Earth ‘s orbit has reached a record high, albeit for a brief period. With the launch of the Chinese Shenzhou 16 mission on Monday, May 29th at 01:31 GMT or 9:31, the population in orbit grew to 17 people. The previous record, set during the privately funded Inspiration4 mission in September 2021, was 14 people.
All the astronauts involved
The record of men in orbit was achieved by the combination of four distinct crews on as many missions. Shenzhou 16, composed of the three Chinese taikonauts Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu, and Gui Haichao, aboard the Chinese space station Tiangong. Shenzhou 15, consisting of the three taikonauts Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming, and Zhang Lu, who have been aboard Tiangong since November 2022 and are expected to return to Earth in early June.
Expedition 69 on the International Space Station (ISS) is composed of the cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitry Petelin, and Andrey Fedyaev from the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos. The astronauts Frank Rubio, Stephen Bowen, and Warren “Woody” Hoburg from NASA. Finally, the Emirati astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Axiom-2, composed of astronaut Peggy Whitson, private astronaut John Shoffner, and Saudi Arabian astronauts Ali AlQarni and Rayyanah Barnawi, departed from the ISS aboard SpaceX‘s Crew Dragon “Freedom” to return to Earth on Tuesday, May 30th.
Humans in space
By a fortunate coincidence, the current record includes the 600th person in Earth’s orbit. Mission specialist Ax-2 Barnawi became the centenarian space traveler on May 21st, as well as the first Saudi woman in space.
In general, the record of humans in space, rather than in Earth ‘s orbit, was recently achieved and lasted a very short time. In just 5 minutes, there were 20 people off our planet. Record was set by the six-member crew of Virgin Galactic‘s Unity 25 SpaceShipTwo. Suborbital spaceflight coincided with the three Chinese taikonauts aboard Tiangong and the 11 astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station.
The previous record for the highest number of people in space simultaneously was set during Blue Origin‘s New Shepard NS-19 suborbital flight on December 11th, 2021, when there were 19 people away from our planet for a brief period of time. Since 2000, there has been a continuous human presence in space, starting with the first crew that settled on the International Space Station.