Astronaut Frank Rubio Sets New US Duration Record on Journey to One-Year Space Mission

On September 11, 2023, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio broke a record aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Rubio, a member of the space station’s 69th expedition crew, became the American who has flown the longest space mission in U.S. history. Surpassing the previous record of 355 days, 3 hours, and 45 minutes set by NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei in 2022, Rubio’s mission will last for a total of 371 days in Earth orbit.

Rubio, in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America, expressed his honor at being considered one of the few people to spend a year in space. He also acknowledged that this record would soon be broken again. Rubio highlighted the significance of his mission duration in terms of understanding the adaptability of the human body. As humanity prepares to explore further in the solar system, Rubio emphasized the importance of learning how the human body can adapt and optimizing this process to improve performance.

Rubio’s journey began on September 21, 2022, aboard Russia’s Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft. Initially scheduled to return to Earth after six months on the space station, a change in plans occurred on December 14. The Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft experienced a coolant system malfunction, leading to a leak of ammonia coolant into space. To ensure the crew’s safety, a “rescue” Soyuz, MS-23, was launched on February 23, extending Rubio’s stay on the station for an additional six months.

NASA astronaut Warren “Woody” Hoburg spoke highly of Rubio’s leadership during his extended mission. Rubio’s dedication and sacrifice in being away from his family for such a long period was commendable. Similar to Rubio, Mark Vande Hei was also unaware that he would spend nearly a year in space when he launched to the ISS. Vande Hei’s extended stay was to accommodate a Russian movie crew’s visit and to maintain an American presence on the ISS.

Rubio’s crewmates, Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin, are the sixth and seventh Russians to spend a year in space. This mission marks their first time spending a year in space on the International Space Station. Previously, Soviet-era cosmonauts Sergey Avdeev, Musa Manarov, Vladimir Titov, and Valery Polyakov spent more than 365 days on the former space station Mir. Valery Polyakov still holds the record for the longest single space mission at 437 days.

As a former flight surgeon, Rubio anticipates challenges upon his return home. Due to the extended duration in space, most astronauts experience difficulties with their vestibular system and equilibrium, which may take a couple of days to normalize. However, a period of intense rehabilitation lasting between two to six months is expected to restore Rubio to his normal state.

Rubio’s record-breaking mission not only demonstrates the resilience of the human body but also contributes valuable insights as humanity prepares for future space exploration endeavors. The lessons learned from Rubio’s extended stay will aid in optimizing astronaut performance and well-being during long-duration missions to the moon, Mars, and beyond.