Sep 27, 2023 - Science

NASA astronaut back on Earth after record-breaking spaceflight

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio after landing in Kazakhstan and waving to the camera smiling while being carried to the medical tent

Frank Rubio after landing on Earth. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio is back on Earth after a record-breaking 371 continuous days in space.

Why it matters: Understanding what happens to the human body during long-duration stays in orbit is crucial before sending astronauts to farther afield destinations like the Moon and Mars.

Driving the news: The Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin back from the International Space Station landed in Kazakhstan at 3:54am ET on Wednesday.

  • Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin were initially expected to come back to Earth earlier, but when a problem with their Soyuz popped up, they were forced to extend their time in space, instead coming home aboard a different Soyuz.
  • Rubio orbited the Earth about 5,936 times during his spaceflight.

What they're saying: "Our astronauts make extraordinary sacrifices away from their homes and loved ones to further discovery," NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.

  • "NASA is immensely grateful for Frank's dedicated service to our nation and the invaluable scientific contributions he made on the International Space Station."

The big picture: The previous record for the longest continuous spaceflight by an American was held by NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei at 355 days.

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