July 8 (UPI) — Retired astronaut Terry Virts is expected take off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday morning in an attempt to break a world record for flying around the Earth over the North and South poles.
Virts and a team of pilots from British company Action Aviation will fly an executive jet for about 48 hours with brief stops to refuel in Kazakhstan and Chile.
They will fly a Gulfstream G650ER owned by a subsidiary of Qatar Airways. They’ll attempt to shave minutes off a record that’s gone unchallenged since 2008, Action Aviation said.
Aviation International News reported in 2008 that pilots set a record for “polar circumnavigation” at 52 hours and 32 minutes. That was 95 minutes faster than a Boeing 747 flew the route in 1977.
Virts’ mission, called One More Orbit, pays tribute to the achievements of the Apollo moon missions with a takeoff time of 9:32 a.m. — the same time as the original Apollo 11 liftoff on July 16, 1969.
Virts is a former commander of the International Space Station and a space shuttle pilot for the 2015 flight of Endeavour, STS-130.
“My ISS crewmate, Russian cosmonaut Col. Gennady Padalka, will be joining us in the spirit of international cooperation as we fly ‘one more orbit,'” Virts said in a news release.
“Hopefully, our record will be certified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale and Guinness World Records,” said Hamish Harding, chairman of Action Aviation.
The flight also is designed to be “carbon neutral” by using carbon sequestration offsets.
The crew will attempt to live stream the entire 25,000-mile flight using connections provided by Satcom Direct.
Qatar Executive and Gulfstream said the jet can fly at a faster speed for longer distances than any other jet, with a range of 8,630 miles.