With the space station set to receive a new crew, the current team keeps setting new records to delight statisticians: Station commander Michael Lopez-Alegria has attained top status in the U.S. record book for spacewalking, and his American colleague Sunita Williams (who will remain aboard across the handover) now holds the women's spacewalking record. Their Russian crewmate Mikhail Tyurin has done some of his own record-grabbing, including his famous "space golf" shot.
The crew due to fly up to the station in a Russian Soyuz capsule incoming Russian expedition commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, his flight engineer (and Soyuz vehicle commander) Oleg Kotov and billionaire space passenger Charles Simonyi are also in line to make history when they lift off April 7.
It will be the first time in almost 40 years that a three-man Soyuz crew has consisted entirely of men who have never flown aboard a previous Soyuz mission (although Yurchikhin did make one space shuttle flight). And because of a scheduling modification, the visiting crew will be aboard the station for two extra days making this the longest "short-term" visit to the space station.
But the most significant "longest ever" record is more than merely a bigger number for a record book. Its a question of current crew safety, as well as potential improvements in space transportation as the station evolves into a permanent six-person crew.
The crew coming back to Earth Lopez-Alegria, Tyurin and Simonyi will be landing in a spacecraft with an "expired warranty." Their Soyuz TMA-9 capsule will be the oldest-ever Soyuz to bring crewmen back to Earth.