After being detained when his flight home was broken, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio has finally come home after a 371-day stint on the International Space Station – a record for an American.
Dr. Frank Rubio, the first American astronaut to spend more than a year in space, has returned to Earth. He stayed aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for 371 days in a row, outlasting astronauts Mark Vande Hei (355 days) and Scott Kelly (340 days). The journey took more than twice as lengthy as initially planned.
On September 27, Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin landed in rural Kazakhstan.
They were pulled out of their Soyuz capsule and carried away because they were unable to walk due to their extended stay in microgravity.
On September 21, 2022, Rubio, Prokopyev, and Petelin arrived on the ISS in a Soyuz capsule. They were scheduled to return to Earth on March 28, but were forced to stay in orbit after their spaceship was hit by a piece of space trash or meteoroid in December 2022, resulting in an uncontrolled radiator leak. In February, the three utilized another uncrewed capsule to come home after the unrepairable spacecraft was returned to Earth.
Rubio, Prokopyev, and Petelin had to remain onboard the ISS until now due to other schedule difficulties. However, Rubio’s lengthy stay presents an unexpected chance to learn more about long-duration spaceflight.
“Frank’s record-breaking time in space is not just a milestone; it’s a major contribution to our understanding of long-duration space missions,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “He embodies the true pioneer spirit that will pave the way for future exploration to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.”
The previous record for an American in orbit was held by Vande Hei, who spent 355 days on board the ISS between 2021 and 2022. However, the longest consecutive duration spent in orbit was 437 days, recorded by cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov between 1994 and 1995.
According to NASA, Rubio performed around 5,936 Earth circles, which amounts to approximately 157 million miles (253 million kilometers) or nearly 328 visits to the moon and back. He also completed three spacewalks totaling around 21 hours and shared the ISS with 28 different crew members.
In a Sept. 19 interview on board the ISS, Rubio explained that it had been hard to be away from his family for such a long time but that he had tried hard to “stay positive” during his extended mission. “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,” he said.
Rubio conducted a variety of scientific experiments during his time in space, including testing how bacteria behave in microgravity. But his favorite experiments were carried out on a tomato plant. “I love working with that little plant and seeing it grow and develop,” he said.
It will be fascinating to observe how successfully Rubio adjusts to life back on Earth. Prolonged space travel can cause muscular degeneration, bone loss, decreased vision, and worse balance, as well as affect the form of the brain. Rubio’s latest record-breaking journey was his first time in space, therefore his body has never faced any of these concerns. He estimates that it will take between two and six months to feel entirely normal again.