Updated: | Originally published:

Correction appended, Sept. 12

The last time American astronaut Jeff Williams set foot on Earth was March 18. He was set to return to our planet on Sept. 6, having set a new NASA record for cumulative time spent in space at 534 days.

During his time working in space, Williams has seen the International Space Station (ISS) grow from a single, crew-less module to the continuously-manned orbiting laboratory that it is today. His first mission was aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis back in 2000, where he worked to prepare the space station for its first crew, spending just 10 days in space. He returned in 2006 and spent six months there, setting up experiments and replacing equipment. In 2009 ,Williams commanded the station for the first time, overseeing the arrival of, among other things, the famous cupola. On his most recent mission, the station had officially been declared complete, but Williams still found work to do, adding a docking adapter and helping to deploy a new module.

Over those 534 days, Williams has shown that he has a great photographic eye for some of Earth’s more spectacular features, sharing many of his shots on social media. He has delighted in spotting the pale blues of coral reefs, unique agricultural plots, and winding river deltas, along with astrological features such as noctilucent clouds, aurorae, and the full moon.

“It’s a real thrill for me to be able to bring the experience to you through photography,” Williams said in a NASA video earlier this year, “You never get tired of viewing the beautiful planet that is home to all of us.”

Williams won’t have long to enjoy his crown. Peggy Whitson is scheduled to break his record during her next mission, which launches in November.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the last time Jeff Williams was on Earth. It was March 18, 2016.


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