‘It was an incredible challenge:’ NASA astronaut shares how he set new record for longest US spaceflight (video)

By | September 14, 2023

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio celebrated a spaceflight milestone with two former astronauts on Earth.

NASAFrank Rubio spoke with NASA senior management International Space Station on Thursday (September 13), two days after breaking the previous record of 355 days on a single spaceflight. Rubio is expected to spend 371 days in orbit, making him the first American to spend more than a year in space on a single mission. Even more incredibly, it hadn’t been planned that way; problems with its spacecraft forced the expected six-month orbital stay to double to a year.

“It was unexpected. In some ways, it was an incredible challenge,” Rubio said of the milestone during the livestream call on NASA Television, with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “But in other ways, it’s been an incredible blessing. I feel fortunate and honored to be able to represent the agency and our country.”

Rubio, a Salvadoran-American born in Los Angeles, added that considering his record-breaking stay falls during National Hispanic Heritage Month (which ends Oct. 15), he finds it “timely” as it “symbolizes diversity of the wonderful and rich fabric of America.”

Related: NASA astronaut Frank Rubio surprised by his accidental record in space (video)

an astronaut floating among the spies smiles while handling laboratory equipment

an astronaut floating among the spies smiles while handling laboratory equipment

Rubio and his Russian MS-22 Soyuz spacecraft crewmates Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, cosmonauts of Roscosmosthey were supposed to spend a standard six months in space after launch on September 21, 2022. Both Rubio and Petelin were on their first flights.

Halfway through their stay, however, the MS-22, which also served as a passage home, It has drastically lost all its coolant in a December 2022 leak. After considering options, Roscosmos quickly dispatched an empty replacement Soyuz, called MS-23, which arrived on February 25.

The agencies also formulated an emergency escape plan from the ISS prior to MS-23’s arrival, assigning Rubio a temporary spot (which involves using tether straps on the floor of an already docked aircraft). SpaceX Crew Dragon). His Russian crewmates were allowed to use the MS-22 if absolutely necessary, as two humans would not warm the uncooled spacecraft as quickly as three. But fortunately it was not necessary to implement that plan after the safe docking of MS-23.

to know more: Russia’s replacement Soyuz spacecraft arrives at the space station

Rubio and his crewmates, however, had to remain on board until a rescue team arrived. This required preparing yet another spacecraft (MS-24) for spaceflight to send the astronauts. Since NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub were supposed to use MS-23, the crew’s departure date on MS-24 was postponed to no earlier than September 15 to the reassignment of MS-24.

Assuming all goes according to plan, Rubio and his crewmates will finally leave space on September 27.

“As much as it was a challenge to say another six months, I’m so grateful that the agency was able to say, ‘Hey, you know what would be the safest thing to do: fire up a new spacecraft and make (my) wait crew) and ensure a safer return,” Rubio said on the call, adding, “I look forward to returning to a safer and more secure spacecraft.”

Nelson and Melroy, both astronauts who flew from Space Shuttle program, paid homage to the challenges Rubio had faced in orbit. (Melroy flew three times as a NASA astronaut. Nelson, then a member of the House of Representatives on a space committee, flew on the STS-61C mission in 1986 under a program NASA had then to allow nonprofessionals to reach space.)

“You made all kinds of records up there and you had six months that you didn’t expect,” Nelson said, speaking from NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Melroy, standing next to Nelson watching the video, said Rubio’s wife and children “have been on my mind so much.” The former astronaut added that she wanted to check in to make sure Rubio was getting the support she needed.

Rubio said the NASA community rallied around him, sending people to the home as needed to help the family. Fortunately, updates to NASA’s Internet network on the station also arrived during his mission, allowing for high-quality video conferences with family at least twice a week, he said.

Rubio joked that his only regret was not eating one of the space-grown Red Robin tomatoes his crew cared for, and he managed to save it from a unexpected drop in humidity on the ISS at a crucial moment of growth. Unfortunately, Rubio’s inch-long tomato flew away into an out of sight before he could take a bite. “I spent so many hours looking for that thing,” he joked. “I’m sure the dried tomato will appear sooner or later and prove me right, years into the future.”


— Astronaut Frank Rubio breaks U.S. record by spending a year in space

– The UAE’s first long-serving astronaut says a mission to the Moon is within reach

— NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara ready for Soyuz launch to relieve crew behind in space

Only seven astronauts have spent more than a year in space. Aside from the trio on MS-22/23, the other four were cosmonauts on a mission visiting the then-Soviet Union. Mir space station. At the top of the ranking is Valery Polyakov (437 days), while the others are Sergey Avdeev, Musa Manarov and Vladimir Titov.

Rubio’s record surpasses the 355-day record set by late NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei. Vande Hei was also supposed to spend six months in space, but because of the learned flight he could extend that to up to a year space station staffing needs (Which is what ultimately happened.)

Vande Hei, speaking with Rubio earlier this month from that of NASA Johnson Space Station in Houston, said the most memorable part of his stay was “the people I got to spend so much time with [with] … intensely, working and playing as much as possible.”

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