Astronaut Frank Rubio has set a new longest space mission by an American. The NASA astronaut had no intention of breaking a record when the mission first began. Mark Vende Hei previously held the record, spending 355 days in space from 2021 to 2022.
Rubio’s debut mission was originally supposed to last six months in space, but an accidental space junk collision just eleven days before Christmas in 2022 damaged the spacecraft’s cooling system.
US and Russian space engineers concluded that the Soyuz Spacecraft, which he and two Russian cosmonauts had boarded, was no longer safe for a return trip to Earth.
The Russian Space Agency sent a replacement spacecraft, but Rubio’s return was rescheduled, giving the Astronaut another six months in space.
Despite the unexpected challenge, Rubio said he was happy to represent his agency and country. He was speaking to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and his deputy, Pam Melroy, via a video link.
“In some ways it’s been an incredible challenge. But in other ways it’s been an incredible blessing and so I count myself lucky and honored to be able to represent the agency and our country,” he said.
Rubio also mentioned that he stayed in close touch with his family, and has really missed being with them during some important events of 2023, including not being there for his son when he left home to attend West Point Academy for college.
Speaking of his family, the astronaut said, “I’m sure they missed me, but at the same time we all took on the challenge together and it was just really neat to see them have a great attitude throughout the past year. It just helps you to stay so connected; to obviously talk to them, but then to see them, it was really pretty special to be able to do that.”
Rubio would have stayed in space for 371 days by the time his mission is complete and he returns home. As he counts down the days until his return, he keeps up with physical fitness in space and can’t wait to see how his body will adapt to Earth’s gravity.
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