NASA Astronaut Breaks Record and Safely Returns to Earth Alongside Russian Crewmates After One Year on Space Station

On September 27, 2023, history was made as the first American astronaut to spend a full year in space, along with two Russian cosmonauts, safely landed back on Earth. NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin returned from their extended stay on the International Space Station (ISS) aboard Russia’s Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft. The trio’s 371-day mission has set new records and showcased the endurance and sacrifice required for long-duration space missions.

Rubio’s landing marked him as the U.S. astronaut with the longest single mission, surpassing the previous record of 355 days held by fellow NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei. During an in-flight press conference, Rubio humbly acknowledged the dedication and sacrifice required for such missions, stating that he was fortunate to have spent a few extra weeks in space. This achievement highlights the groundbreaking advancements in human space exploration and the determination of astronauts to push the boundaries of human endurance.

Prokopyev and Petelin also made history as the sixth and seventh Russians to spend a year or more in space. They join the ranks of Soviet-era cosmonauts who have achieved this remarkable feat. Notably, Valery Polyakov holds the worldwide record for the longest single space mission, spending 437 days aboard the former space station Mir. While Prokopyev, Petelin, and Rubio’s mission falls short of this record, their 371-day stay still ranks as the third longest in history.

The crew began their return journey on September 27 when they departed from the ISS, marking the end of Expedition 69 and the start of Expedition 70. During their mission, Prokopyev and Petelin performed an impressive six spacewalks, while Rubio completed three. Their contributions to space research and maintenance have been crucial in ensuring the smooth operation of the ISS. Fellow astronaut Andreas Mogensen, who assumed command of the space station from Prokopyev, recognized their competence, dedication, and hard work, expressing gratitude for their contributions to Expedition 70.

Expedition 70 comprises a diverse crew of astronauts from multiple space agencies. Alongside Mogensen, NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara, Roscosmos cosmonauts Andrey Fedyaev, Oleg Kononenko, and Nikolai Chub, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa will continue the work initiated by Prokopyev, Petelin, and Rubio. Kononenko and Chub are scheduled for a year-long stay on the ISS, allowing for crew rotations and a short visit by a representative from the Republic of Belarus in March. The camaraderie and collaboration among these international astronauts exemplify the spirit of cooperation in space exploration.

The mission extension for Prokopyev, Petelin, and Rubio was unexpected, adding an additional six months to their original mission duration. Due to a coolant leak in their initial Soyuz spacecraft (MS-22), it was deemed unsafe for them to return to Earth. Russia launched a “rescue” Soyuz (MS-23) to bring the crew back, but their departure was delayed to maintain the crew rotation schedule. Despite the challenges and uncertainty they faced, the crew demonstrated resilience, professionalism, and grace throughout the extended mission.

Now safely back on Earth, the crew will be transported to Karaganda, the staging city in Kazakhstan. Prokopyev and Petelin will return to Star City outside Moscow, while Rubio will be flown back to Houston and NASA’s Johnson Space Center. This triumphant homecoming marks the end of a remarkable journey that saw the crew orbit Earth 5936 times, covering a staggering distance of 157,412,306 miles (253,330,550 km), equivalent to approximately 328 round trips to the moon and back.

The accomplishments of Rubio, Prokopyev, and Petelin symbolize the incredible progress made in human space exploration. Their year-long stay on the ISS has not only surpassed previous records but has also paved the way for future missions that will further expand our understanding of space and the limits of human endurance. As we celebrate their safe return, we are reminded of the dedication and sacrifice required to push the boundaries of human exploration and inspire generations to come.