Astronauts Frank Rubio and his two Russian colleagues, Sergei Prokopyev and Dmitry Petlin, landed in Kazakhstan shortly after 5:00 pm local time on Wednesday by parachute aboard a Russian Soyuz MS-23 capsule. CNN.
Rubio was scheduled to spend just six months on the International Space Station, but instead spent a total of 371 days in space after a coolant leak was discovered while docking with the station.
Rubio set a new record for the longest time an American astronaut has spent in microgravity.
He became the first American to spend an entire calendar year in orbit.
The record-breaking mission marked another notable first for Rubio. This was his first spaceflight after being elected to NASA’s astronaut team in 2017, and at the start of the mission he also became the first Salvadoran astronaut to orbit Earth.
In a recent interview with CNN, the astronaut said that if he had known his stay on the space station would be twice as long as originally planned, he likely would have turned down the mission before he began training.
According to NASA data, Rubio and his companions covered a total distance of 253.3 million kilometers and completed 5,963 orbits around the Earth.
Thus, Rubio broke the previous record for the longest stay in space for an American astronaut, which was 355 days, which was set by NASA astronaut Mark Vande Heij in 2022.
The world record for the longest stay in space is held by the late Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov, who spent 437 days in orbit aboard the Russian Mir space station between January 1994 and March 1995.
Rubio, Prokopyev and Petylin lifted off on September 21, 2022 aboard the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft and arrived safely at the space station three hours later. The Soyuz capsule was left docked outside the space station while they went to work.
Less than three months into the crew mission, the Soyuz MS-22 began leaking coolant. Investigations concluded that the spacecraft may have collided with a smaller object in its orbit.
Consequently, the SOJUZ MS-22 spacecraft was determined to be unsuitable for spacecraft return, and work began on launching a replacement spacecraft, the Soyuz MS-23.
However, Rubio and his teammates haven’t been able to return home just yet, as officials decided to extend their stay instead while also starting a new crew.
The Soyuz MS-24 spacecraft finally delivered Loral O’Hara, along with astronauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub, to the space station on September 15, paving the way for Rubio’s return on Wednesday.