NASA’s Frank Rubio touched down after an unparalleled 371 days in orbit, marking a milestone in American space exploration. His record-setting mission, alongside Roscosmos cosmonauts, charts a path for future lunar and Martian ventures.
After spending an American record-breaking 371 days in space, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio safely landed on Earth with his crewmates on Wednesday, September 27.
Rubio departed the International Space Station, along with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, at 3:54 a.m. EDT, and made a safe, parachute-assisted landing at 7:17 a.m. (5:17 p.m. Kazakhstan time), southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.
“Frank’s record-breaking time in space is not just a milestone; it’s a major contribution to our understanding of long-duration space missions,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Our astronauts make extraordinary sacrifices away from their homes and loved ones to further discovery. 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.”
Rubio’s Achievements in Space
On September 21, 2022, Rubio launched on his first spaceflight alongside Prokopyev and Petelin. Rubio’s spaceflight is the longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut, breaking the record previously held at 355 days by NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei.
During his mission, Rubio completed approximately 5,936 orbits and a journey of more than 157 million miles, roughly the equivalent of 328 trips to the Moon and back. He witnessed the arrival of 15 visiting spacecraft and the departure of 14 visiting spacecraft representing crewed and uncrewed cargo missions.
Rubio’s extended mission provides researchers the opportunity to observe the effects of long-duration spaceflight on humans as the agency plans to return to the Moon through the Artemis missions and prepare for exploration of Mars.
The Soyuz Mission Details
Rubio, Prokopyev, and Petelin launched aboard the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft but, due to a coolant leak, returned to Earth aboard the Soyuz MS-23. The affected Soyuz MS-22 capsule returned without its crew after the Soyuz MS-23 capsule was launched as a replacement on February 23, 2023.
Following post-landing medical checks, the crew will return to Karaganda, Kazakhstan. Rubio will then board a NASA plane bound for his return to Houston.
Scientific Contributions and Expedition 70
During his record-breaking mission, Rubio spent many hours on scientific activities aboard the space station, conducting a variety of tasks ranging from plant research to physical sciences studies.
With the undocking of the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft, Expedition 70 officially began aboard the station. NASA astronauts Loral O’Hara and Jasmin Moghbeli remain aboard the orbital outpost alongside ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Andreas Mogensen, who became station commander on September 26, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Konstantin Borisov, Oleg Kononenko, and Nikolai Chub.
Mogensen, Moghbeli, Furukawa, and Borisov will return to Earth in February 2024, after a short handover with the crew of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 mission. O’Hara is scheduled to return to Earth in March 2024, while Kononenko and Chub will spend a year aboard the station, returning in September 2024.