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NASA astronaut Jeff Williams blasts off into history

The American astronaut and two Russians arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday, where Jeff Williams plans to highlight the station's incredible history and also write some of his own.

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    A member of the International Space Station (ISS) crew Jeff Williams of the US gestures in front of a portrait of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, during a news conference behind a glass wall at the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Thursday, ahead of the launch scheduled for Saturday.
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[Updated March 19]

Astronaut Scott Kelly may have just completed his year in space, but there’s another astronaut already looking to break some of his records.

Astronaut Jeff Williams arrived the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday, and he plans to use the opportunity to both highlight the station’s history and make some of his own.

"If you go and survey the workforce right now and survey those in the general public who are following what we do, as is always the case, in the minds of many of them they don't have the awareness of how we got to where we are today," Mr. Williams told Space.com in January. "So, given my personal history going back ... I thought it would be a good opportunity to rehearse some of the significant milestones and the depth of history behind getting the space station built."

Upon arrival early Saturday, the US Army colonel and grandfather, tweeted that it was "great to be back on board the space station."

Williams will spend half a year on the space station before returning to Earth in September. During his mission, he will break Scott Kelly’s record of the American with the most cumulative days in space. Kelly returned from his year in space with a total of 520 days in space, but Williams will return from this mission with a total of 534 days. A Russian cosmonaut, Genny Padalka, still holds the global record for the most days spent in space, having accumulated 879 days over the course of his career before completing his final mission in September 2015.

The trip marks Williams’ first visit to the ISS after assembly was completed, the Agence France-Presse reports. In 2000, Williams participated in a shuttle mission for the space shuttle Atlantis, which focused on construction of the space station. A mission to the ISS in 2006 took place at a time when the space station only served three crew members.

"I've counted it up recently and I think I have been on orbit at the space station with 45 different people over the years," Williams said on NASA television. "This [mission] will add a few more folks to that list, and it has been a real highlight of my career and my life to be able to share this magnificent experience with those folks."

Reuters reports that Williams, Skripochka and Ovchinin join a three-man crew already aboard the station. The crew has been preparing for the arrival of an Orbital ATK cargo ship, which is scheduled to blast off from Florida on Tuesday. 

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