NASA announced earlier this week that Spanish astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria was leaving the U.S. space agency after 20 years of service.

The 53-year-old engineer and former U.S. Navy pilot has dual Spanish-U.S. citizenship and holds two records: the first as the NASA astronaut with the most experience on spacewalks, 10, and the second for being a member of the longest spaceflight mission.

During his career, Lopez-Alegria spent more than 257 days in space, including 215 days as commander of the 14th expedition to the International Space Station.

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His 67 hours of spacewalks have only been exceeded by Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev.

"Mike has faithfully served the Flight Crew Operations Directorate for many years," Janet Kavandi, NASA director of Flight Crew Operations at Johnson, said of the departing astronaut.

He most recently served in the Flight Crew Operations Directorate at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston as assistant director for the International Space Station (ISS).

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"His unique background and diplomatic skills have made him an outstanding FCOD assistant director for space station and lead for the Multilateral Crew Operations Panel," Kavandi said. "Mike's tireless dedication to the safety and well-being of space station crews is well known. We will miss him and wish him well in his future endeavors."

"Mike has been a huge asset to the astronaut office during the course of his career," said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office at Johnson. "His contributions in spacewalking, shuttle, space station and Soyuz operations are notable and very distinguished. Personally, we will miss his humor and insights and wish him all the best."
 

It was during his forth and final space shuttle mission, Expedition 14, that Commander Lopez-Alegira earned his spaceflight record. The seven month mission began on Septmeber 18, 2006, on a Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.  During the mission, Lopez-Alegria and his crew were in charge of operating, building and maintaining the station and its facilities.

You can reach Kacy Capobres at: KacyJayne@gmail.com or via Twitter: @KacyJayne

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