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Record-setting NASA astronaut returns to Earth after 371 days in space

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio on the International Space Station
Johnson Space Center
(Oct. 17, 2022) --- NASA astronaut and Expedition 68 Flight Engineer Frank Rubio poses in front of BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, during cargo activities aboard the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio is back on Earth after a record-long stay on the International Space Station. A capsule carrying Rubio and his two Russian crewmates touched down Wednesday in Kazakhstan.

Screen shot of NASA's Frank Rubio after landing in Kazakhstan
NASA astronaut Frank Rubio arrives back on Earth after his record-breaking mission

Rubio clocked 371 days in space, breaking the U.S. record for most time spent living in orbit on a single mission.

“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."

His mission was originally slated for only 180 days, but Rubio’s return capsule, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, sprung a coolant leak. Russian engineers suspect a piece of space junk damaged the vehicle. Rubio's stay was extended as engineers investigated the issue and sent a replacement capsule to the station.

While in orbit, Rubio and his Russian crewmates Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin completed around 5,936 orbits of Earth, traveling 157 million miles in space.

NASA took advantage of the extra time spent by Rubio on orbit to study the long-duration effects of spaceflight on the human body. The agency is planning a return to the moon in the coming years, and eventually wants to send humans to Mars. What NASA learns from Rubio's stay will help plan for those missions.

The world record for long-duration single spaceflight is held by Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov who spent 437 days in space.

Brendan Byrne is WMFE's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the WMFE newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing WMFE's internship program.

Byrne also hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.
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