NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, along with two Russian cosmonauts, has returned to Earth after being stuck in space for more than a year.
Rubio now holds the record for the longest consecutive time in space as a NASA astronaut, but the new honor was not intentional.
His original mission was meant to last six months, but a coolant leak in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft was detected after it was docked at the space station. Without the coolant, the capsule could overheat, and that ultimately lengthened the stay while a replacement was sent.
The replacement capsule reached the trio two weeks ago.
After 371 days in space, Rubio, alongside Russia’s Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, landed Wednesday morning in a remote area of Kazakhstan.
Rubio, who was born in Los Angeles, joined NASA in 2017. He is the first astronaut of Salvadoran descent to travel to low-Earth orbit.
According to NASA, Rubio traveled 157.4 million miles and orbited the Earth 5,963 times.
Before joining the space program, Rubio was a board-certified family physician and flight surgeon and a special forces Army officer and Blackhawk helicopter pilot who flew combat missions in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. This was his first mission in space.
Before his return to Earth, Rubio told reporters that he would have turned down the mission if he had known of the timeline in advance, citing missing important family milestones. Still, he said he felt honored and is looking forward to regaining his sense of balance and strength that was affected by prolonged microgravity.
When Rubio landed, it was reported that he smiled and said, “It’s good to be home.”
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