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Thu, Sep 28, 2023

NASA Astronaut Frank Rubio Returns to Earth

Record-Setting 371-Day Spaceflight Ends Safely

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio has returned safely to Earth after serving out a record-breaking 371-day mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Rubio and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin undocked their Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft from the ISS’s Prichal module at 03:54 EDT, thereby beginning a three-hour-twenty-minute trip back to the gravity, reality-television, rampant inflation, and geopolitical tensions from which they’d been largely free for 5,963 orbits of Mother Earth. The trio’s aggregate space journey, which spanned 157.4-million statute-miles—a distance roughly equivalent to 328 trips round-trips between the Earth and moon—culminated in a safe, 07:17 EDT, parachute-assisted landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan, southeast of the city of Dzhezkazgan.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson lauded Rubio’s achievement, stating: “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.”

Mr. Nelson added: “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 blasted off for the International Space Station aboard Russia’s Soyuz MS-22 mission on 21 September 2022. He was to have remained in space for approximately six-months, returning to Earth in early 2023. Damage to the aforementioned spacecraft stranded Rubio aboard the ISS, however, prolonging his mission significantly.

During his 371-days in space—a period otherwise expressed as one-year and six-days—Rubio bore witness to the arrivals and departures of 29 visiting spacecraft entailing manned and unmanned missions alike. Rubio’s protracted spaceflight surpassed the 355-day mark set by former U.S. record-holder NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei.

By virtue of their extended mission, Rubio, Prokopyev, and Petelin afforded researchers opportunity to observe the effects of long-duration spaceflight and microgravity on human physiology and psychology. The data garnered during the three men’s marathon extra-atmospheric excursion will inform NASA’s ongoing Artemis Mission, which seeks to establish a permanent human presence on Earth’s moon.

After landing, Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin will be flown from the landing site to Karaganda, Kazakhstan, the capital and namesake of Kazakhstan’s Karaganda Region and the nation’s fifth most populous city. Karaganda will mark the divergence of Rubio’s path from Prokopyev’s and Petelin’s, as the astronaut will bid his comrades farewell, board a NASA plane, and endure an additional ten-hour, twenty-minute flight back to Houston.

For more than 22-years, astronauts have continuously lived and worked aboard the International Space Station—some longer than others—maintaining the orbital facility, conducting scientific research, and developing technologies and skills conducive to humankind’s aspiration to become a truly space-faring species.



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