After watching the video below (found here and here) I am reminded of the series of possibly less than 100% serious questions here about being weightless in the middle of a large volume and considering the options for reaction masses to get to the side and grab hold of something.

In the video I noticed that there is a central cord or rope to hold on to, possibly for this very reason (see Why did Skylab have a thick blue flexible cord running down its central axis?).

Question: Is there some official or unofficial record for the longest time that an anstronaut remained in free fall, not holding on to or being secured by or pushed/nudged/impulsed by anything? This could be suited or in a spacecraft, but no tethers or cords or contact with secured objects.

Gotta love the vintage music track, one of the zillion instances of the Amen Break (original heard after 01:26 in The Winstons - Amen Brother).

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    $\begingroup$ I don't know that records are kept of that, but it would probably be McCandless's untethered MMU flights from the Orbiter. airspacemag.com/daily-planet/… $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ @OscarLanzi microgravity is a thing. ISS astronauts anywhere else besides the station's center of mass would be gently nudged by the the station walls in a few minutes or half-hour. Due to drag the ISS is always slowing down so even at the center of mass point, sooner or later you'd end up hitting the front end because you wouldn't experience atmospheric drag. That's why I added "in free fall, not holding on to or being secured by anything". $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 22:17
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble since the MMU had thrusters and presumably those were used, only the intervals between their use would count. I've added "...or pushed/nudged/impulsed by..." to make this clearer. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented May 7, 2020 at 0:03
  • $\begingroup$ Given the wording of the question, it's possible that some sleeping astronauts might qualify for the answer, but would not have been observed or recorded. $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Commented May 7, 2020 at 5:32
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    $\begingroup$ My understanding is that it's up to each individual's preference. $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Commented May 7, 2020 at 6:51

1 Answer 1


Bounding Functions:

1) The record would have to have taken place on an untethered (or slack-tethered) EVA as airflow inside any space station/capsule would result in significant acceleration

2) The record could not have have taken place on any lunar EVAs (obviously)

3) The record could not have have taken place using an MMU with any sort of reaction control wheel/control-moment gyroscopes as these would have been in operation near continuously.

This paper studies the use of such systems on MMUs so they probably weren't used on McCandless' and Bob Stewart's EVAs in 1984.

The RCS system most likely would have had periodic orientation keeping burns so the maximum interval between these burns would be the record... :D


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