Record-breaking astronaut Frank Rubio finally home after over a year in orbit

Rubio spent 371 days on the ISS, the longest any American has been aloft

NASA astronaut Dr. Frank Rubio has returned home after a 371-day stint aboard the International Space Station, setting a new record for the longest time an American has stayed in space.

Rubio, 47, and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, 48, and Dmitri Petelin, 40, landed back on Earth on September 27 at 0517 local time in Kazakhstan (1117 UTC). The trio ended up spending longer than expected in space after their ride home, a Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft, started leaking coolant in December last year.

A micrometeoroid pierced a hole in the system, causing the fluid to spray out until it was depleted. The damaged spacecraft was flown back without crew onboard over fears that the lack of coolant could cause it to overheat. At first, NASA considered bringing back the astronauts in a SpaceX Dragon capsule, but it was later decided they would return in a Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft.

Rubio expected to spend six months in the ISS, but the wait for the return journey home extended his stay to 371 days, marking the longest time an American has continually spent in space. Rubio broke the record on September 11, beating NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei who has stayed in orbit 355 days.

In a press conference, Rubio said that if he had known he would be staying for such a long time before he had started training for the mission, he would have thought twice about going.

"I would have probably declined…that's only because of family things that were going on this past year and had I known I would have had to miss those very important events, I would have just had to say thank you but no thank you."

Rubio will board a plane back to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, and will undergo a medical examination. After spending over a year in space, his body will have to readjust to Earth's gravity. Expedition 69 was Rubio's first-ever mission in space after being selected as an astronaut candidate in 2017; he graduated training in 2019. Prior to NASA, Rubio was a medical doctor, surgeon, and lieutenant colonel in the US Army. 

During his time on the ISS, he helped conduct numerous experiments, including studying bacteria and the impacts of exercise on human health in space, and took part in three spacewalks. ®

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