Advertisement

Lost in space: Astronaut, two cosmonauts return to Earth six months late

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio has returned to earth with two Russian cosmonauts, setting a record for the longest US spaceflight after the trio was stuck in space for more than a year.

Sep 28, 2023, updated Sep 28, 2023
NASA astronaut Frank Rubio (left), cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, crew members of the mission to the International Space Station (ISS) (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky, Pool, File)

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio (left), cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, crew members of the mission to the International Space Station (ISS) (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky, Pool, File)

The trio landed in a remote area of Kazakhstan, descending in a Soyuz capsule that was rushed up as a replacement after their original ride was hit by space junk and lost all its coolant while docked at the International Space Station.

What should have been a 180-day mission turned into a 371-day stay.

Rubio spent more than two weeks longer in space than Mark Vande Hei, who held NASA’s previous endurance record for a single spaceflight.

Russia holds the world record of 437 days, set in the mid-1990s.

The Soyuz capsule that brought Rubio and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin back was a replacement launched in February.

Russian engineers suspect a piece of space junk pierced the radiator of their original capsule late last year, midway through what should have been a six-month mission.

Engineers worried that without cooling, the capsule’s electronics and any occupants could overheat to dangerous levels, so the craft returned empty.

There was not another Soyuz to launch a fresh crew until this month.

Their replacements finally arrived almost two weeks ago.

“No one deserves to go home to their families more than you,” the space station’s new commander, Denmark’s Andreas Mogensen, said earlier this week.

Rubio, 47, an army doctor and helicopter pilot, said at a news conference last week he never would have agreed to a full year in space if asked at the outset.

He ended up missing important family milestones including the oldest of his four children finishing her first year at the US Naval Academy and another heading off to West Point.

Rubio said the psychological aspect of spending so long in space was tougher than he expected.

“Hugging my wife and kids is going to be paramount, and I’ll probably focus on that for the first couple days,” he said.

Rubio could hold on to this record for a while.

NASA has no plans as of now for more year-long missions.

It was the first spaceflight for Rubio and Petelin, 40, an engineer.

Prokopyev, 48, an engineer and pilot, has now pulled two long station stints.

They logged 253 million kilometres since launching from Kazakhstan last September and circled the world almost 6000 times.

Local News Matters
Advertisement

We strive to deliver the best local independent coverage of the issues that matter to Queenslanders.

Copyright © 2024 InQueensland.
All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy