For 371 days the International Space Station has been hosting the team of astronauts who arrived on the ill-fated Soyuz MS-22. The team is now back on Earth. One member of the team, the American of Salvadoran origin Francisco ‘Frank’ Rubio, is now the NASA astronaut with the most consecutive days in space.
The most anticipated landing. After more than a year in orbit, Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitri Petelin and Frank Rubio landed early in the afternoon in Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. They arrived aboard the Soyuz MS-23 after one of the most eventful journeys in the history of the International Space Station (ISS).
Story of a going and a return. The three astronauts left on September 21 of last year for the ISS for a six-month mission. On board the station, the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft in which they arrived suffered a severe coolant leak in December of the same year.
The capsule became unusable so space agencies had to look for alternative methods to bring the three travelers back, but this rescue mission would take a while to arrive.
The first opportunity would come with the Soyuz MS-23 mission. The ship left without a crew in February in order to pick up the team. The return maneuver began this morning, at 9:54 CEST, peninsular time (7:54 UTC) and culminated with the landing of the ship in Kazakhstan at 13:17 CEST (11:17 UTC).
A record trip. Rubio’s 371 days in space have made him the NASA astronaut with the most consecutive days outside our planet. The record was held until just over two weeks ago by Mark Vande Hei (355 days).
During his stay, Rubio also overtook space exploration veterans such as Scott Kelly and Christina Koch.
Far from other records. Rubio’s record is not extendable to all space agencies. The reason is that the person who has spent the most consecutive days off the planet is the recently deceased Valeri Poliakov. The cosmonaut spent 437 days on the Russian-Soviet space station Mir. That is why this record of Rubio was not extendable to his companions in the odyssey, Prokopyev and Petelin.
Rubio is also far from the record for days in space in absolute terms, that is, not consecutive. The NASA astronaut with the most days in space is Pegghy Winston, with 675 days in space on agency missions. Winston’s days in space are actually longer, as she spent another dozen days traveling aboard the Axiom Mission-2 mission.
Every cloud has a silver lining. Upon the capsule’s return, NASA General Administrator Bill Nelson stressed that the eventful mission would also provide valuable information: Rubio’s time in space “is a relevant contribution to our understanding of long-duration space missions, ” he explained.
This was Rubio’s first mission. It remains to be seen if after this intense experience the American of Salvadoran origin will be willing to return to space. If he does so, he could be among NASA’s astronauts with the most days in space: only 11 days separate him from the agency’s sixth most senior person, Mike Fincke, who spent 382 days in space.
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Image | NASA / NASA TV