US astronaut, Frank Rubio, breaks the record for the longest continuous space flight by


NASA astronaut Frank Rubio has safely returned to Earth after breaking the record for the longest continuous mission in space ever completed by an American.

After spending 371 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and orbiting the Earth 5,936 times, Rubio safely arrived in Kazakhstan alongside his two Russian crewmates Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin.

Rubio also became the first American to spend an entire year in orbit, surpassing the previous American record set by Mark Vande Hei by two weeks.

NASA administrator Bill Nelson said that the record-breaking journey was not just a milestone but also a ‘major contribution to our understanding of long-duration space missions.’

‘NASA is immensely grateful for Frank’s dedicated service to our nation and the invaluable scientific contributions he made on the International Space Station. He embodies the true pioneer spirit that will pave the way for future exploration to the Moon, Mars, and beyond,’ he said.

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio has safely returned to Earth after breaking the record for the longest continuous mission in space ever completed by an American

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio has safely returned to Earth after breaking the record for the longest continuous mission in space ever completed by an American

However, breaking records was not the original intention of Rubio’s first ever trip as the mission was only planned to last six months.

Rubio and his crewmates had planned to return to Earth in March but became trapped aboard the space station when their original spacecraft sprung an unexpected coolant leak.

The culprit was later determined to have been a micrometeorite or piece of space debris which struck their Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft three months into the mission, making it unsafe to return to Earth.

Space debris is an increasingly dangerous problem as more satellites are launched, leaving clouds of cosmic litter that risk clogging up near-Earth orbits.

Recent estimates suggest that there could be over 23,000 pieces of junk over 10cm, half a million pieces between 1-10cm and over 100 million pieces of debris bigger than a 1mm.

In the time it took to organise a replacement crew and alternative spacecraft, Rubio saw 15 visiting spacecraft and travelled more than 157 million miles (253m km) – the equivalent of 328 trips to the moon.

While Rubio has set the record for the longest American spaceflight, this was only the third longest spaceflight in human history, with two Russian cosmonauts who lived aboard the Mir space station in the 1990s claiming the top spots.

Valeri Polyakov maintains the all-time record for longest spaceflight after spending 437 days aboard the space station.

After spending 371 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and orbiting the Earth 5,936 times, Rubio safely arrived in Kazakhstan alongside his two Russian crewmates Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin

After spending 371 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and orbiting the Earth 5,936 times, Rubio safely arrived in Kazakhstan alongside his two Russian crewmates Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin

Rubio also became the first American to spend an entire year in orbit, surpassing the previous American record set by Mark Vande Hei by two weeks

Rubio also became the first American to spend an entire year in orbit, surpassing the previous American record set by Mark Vande Hei by two weeks

As part of a series of tests to determine the effects of microgravity on the body Polyakov lived aboard the Mir space station between January 8th 1994 and March 22nd 1995.

In a press conference from aboard the ISS, Rubio said that if he had been asked to spend a year in space before starting training, he most likely would have said ‘thank you but no thank you’.

While Rubio has set the record for the longest American spaceflight, this was only the third longest spaceflight in human history

While Rubio has set the record for the longest American spaceflight, this was only the third longest spaceflight in human history

As a father of four children, he said that he would have turned down the mission because of ‘family things that were going on in this past year.’

Following post-landing medical checks the crew will return to Karaganda, a large city in Kazakhstan, before boarding a NASA plane back to Houston.

Asked what he was looking forward to, Rubio said that ‘hugging my wife and kids is going to be paramount, and I’ll probably focus on that for the first couple of days.’

He also said that he was excited to enjoy ‘trees and silence’ of his garden at home after a year spent in the constant hum of the ISS’s life-supporting machinery.

Rubio was selected to be an astronaut in 2017 after earning a doctorate in medicine in 2010 and serving through 600 hours of combat as a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

As a trained doctor, Rubio is well aware of the long-term risks of spending over a year in micro-gravity.

Spending long periods of time outside the pull of Earth’s gravity causes astronauts’ muscles and bones to grow weaker, leaving them unable to walk under their own strength once they return to Earth.

The fluid in the inner ear responsible for helping us maintain balance also adapts to low gravity, meaning that a return to Earth can involve ‘spending a lot of time being sick’.

Rubio said that it would take between two and six months to recover his strength,while his first few hours would likely involve making ‘close friends with some medicine and some bags’.

Rubio and his crewmates will be replaced aboard the ISS by NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara as well as Roscomos cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub.

O’Hara is scheduled to return to Earth in March 2024 while the two cosmonautswill each spend a year aboard the station and return in September 2024.



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