Astronaut Frank Rubio Coming Home After Record-setting Year in Space

Frank Rubio activates hardware aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

The Space Report logoAstronaut and Army Lt. Col. Frank Rubio is set to return to Earth Sept. 27 after setting the record for the longest single spaceflight by an American on Sept. 11, 2023. He then achieved a full year aboard the International Space Station on Sept. 21.

Rubio did not launch into space with the lengthy goal in mind. When Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin launched aboard Soyuz MS-22 in September 2022, they expected their mission to last roughly six months. What was thought to be a micrometeorite damaged the capsule while it was while attached to the ISS in December, resulting in a coolant leak. The incident delayed Rubio’s return, resulting in his record. He’s coming back aboard another Soyuz spacecraft which recently delivered U.S. astronaut Loral O’Hara and cosmonauts Nikolai Chub and Oleg Kononenko to the station.

During the crew swap, the ISS is housing 10 people, which NASA called “a full house.”

Rubio reflected on his unexpectedly extended stay in space.

“In some ways, it’s been an incredible challenge, but in other ways it’s been an incredible blessing,” Rubio said in a talk with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy on Sept. 11. “My favorite part of being up here is that I’ve been able to fly with 28 other people, which if I do the math right, that’s almost 5% of the humans that have ever been to space, which is pretty incredible.”

The previous record for an American, 355 days, was held by Army Col. Mark Vande Hei. Rubio and Vande Hei spoke about their respective achievements last week. 

“Every new day for us is a record until you come home,” Vande Hei said on Sept. 12. “Thank you for that.” 

Throughout his mission, Rubio researched cubesats, 3D printing in microgravity, and hydroponic techniques to grow tomatoes in space. During his talk with Nelson and Melroy, Rubio laughed while admitting he did not eat the tomatoes.  

NASA astronaut Christina Koch holds the record for the longest spaceflight by a woman at 328 days, which she logged between 2019 and 2020. But the longest spaceflight of any person remains 437 days, which Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov achieved aboard the Mir station between 1994 and 1995.

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