Dr. Frank Rubio, the first American astronaut to live in space for over a year without a break, has returned to Earth.
He stayed on the International Space Station (ISS) for 371 days, which is longer than astronauts Mark Vande Hei (355 days) and Scott Kelly (340 days) spent there. This journey lasted more than twice as long as it was supposed to.
Rubio, along with Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, landed in a remote area of Kazakhstan on September 27th. They were unable to walk when they departed their Soyuz capsule because they had been in microgravity for a long time, reported Live Science.
NASA astronaut Frank Rubio completed a single mission aboard the International Space Station of 371 days on Sept. 27, 2023. Rubio surpasses NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei who ended his mission after 355 days on March 30, 2022. pic.twitter.com/bQkU4epZHk
— Dr KC Angurana (@krishan80399920) September 28, 2023
Rubio, Prokopyev, and Petelin reached the ISS using a Soyuz capsule on September 21, 2022. Originally, they were supposed to come back to Earth on March 28th, but they had to stay in space longer.
In December 2022, their spacecraft collided with a piece of space junk or small space rock causing a radiator leak that couldn’t be fixed. Hence, the damaged capsule was returned to Earth. In February, another unmanned capsule was used for their return flight home.
Frank’s record-setting time helps to learn about long space journeys
Frank’s record-setting time in space is not only a big achievement, but it also allows us to learn more about long space journeys, said Bill Nelson, NASA’s Administrator.
He represents the true spirit of exploration that will motivate us to explore the Moon, Mars, and places even farther away in the future, Nelson further explained.
The American record for the longest spaceflight prior to Frank Rubio was held by Vande Hei, who spent 355 days on the ISS from 2021 to 2022. However, the all-time record for the longest continuous stay in space was 437 days, achieved by cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov between 1994 and 1995.
Frank completed 5,936 orbits around Earth before returning
While on his mission, Rubio circled the Earth about 5,936 times. That is roughly equivalent to traveling 157 million miles (253 million kilometers) or going back and forth to the Moon about 328 times, as per NASA’s calculations.
During his time on the ISS, he did three spacewalks, which added up to about twenty-one hours, and he had twenty-eight different crewmates.
In an interview while aboard the ISS on September 19th, Rubio revealed that being away from his family for such a long time had been tough. However, he mentioned that he made a conscious effort to “stay positive” throughout his extended mission.
He said, “You try to just focus on the job and on the mission and remain steady, because ultimately, every day, you have to show up and do the work.”