CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida, July 15 -- Astronaut Shannon Lucid Monday broke a year-old U.S. spaceflight endurance record as she logged her 115th day in orbit. 'To my family, it means I've been gone from home for an awfully long time,' said the 53-year-old biochemist and mother of three grown children who is the second U.S. astronaut to live aboard the Russian Mir space station. 'As far as setting the record, I just hope that it's not a record that holds for very long. I hope in the next few years quite a few Americans will have the opportunity to spend a long time in space,' said Lucid. The veteran NASA astronaut will be spending a bit more time in orbit than she originally planned. Her homecoming is being delayed at least six weeks while technicians install new booster rockets on the shuttle that is to fly Lucid back to Earth. The new U.S. record eclipses a July 1995 record set by Norman Thagard, the first American astronaut to serve on Mir. The milestones, however, pale in comparison with the Russian spaceflight endurance records of more than a year in orbit. During an inflight press conference Monday, Lucid said she doesn't know what the physical or psychological limits are for humans in space. 'I think it'd be different if you were headed out, say like you were on a spacecraft headed out to Mars. I think it would make a difference in the length of time a person would want to spend aboard a spacecraft if you were going to a destination,' said Lucid.
The key to a successful space station mission, she added, is the crew. 'The most important thing that you can learn from a trip like this -- the number one thing -- is the crew has to be compatible and get along and work together. That is the most important lesson that I've learned,' said Lucid, who is aboard Mir with two Russian cosmonauts, Mir 21 commander Yuri Onufrienko and flight engineer Yuri Usachev. The cosmonauts are scheduled to leave Mir mid-August when their replacement crew arrives. 'It'll be a little bit hard (when they leave) because it's been Yuri and Yuri for so long,' said Lucid. 'And it'll be hard to start out working with a new crew but I think it'll be a very interesting experience and I'm looking forward to it.' A Russian resupply ship, slated to reach Mir July 24, is expected to carry a few extra items for Lucid -- some books she asked her daughters to buy and some junk food. Her long time away from home has also left her with a new perspective of the Earth, which she views daily from a vantage point 250 miles (402 kilometers) high. Said Lucid: 'The thing that has impressed me the most is that there are so many places on this Earth I haven't been yet. There are so many places that I really want to be able to go and see.'