A NASA astronaut will lastly spend a full yr in house

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By Calvin S. Nelson

Enlarge / NASA astronaut Frank Rubio observes the conduct of a free-flying water bubble contained in the Worldwide House Station’s Kibo laboratory module.


Eleven days earlier than Christmas final yr, a micrometeoroid struck a Soyuz spacecraft docked to the Worldwide House Station. This ruptured the automobile’s cooling system, making a dramatic spray of coolant for hours into house earlier than there was none left.

Previous to this unintended strike, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio had been planning to return dwelling by round spring break of 2023 to see his spouse, Deborah, and 4 youngsters. For his debut spaceflight, six months in house was sufficient for the previous helicopter pilot and flight surgeon.

However ultimately Russian and US engineers decided that the Soyuz spacecraft that he and two Russian crewmates—cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin—had flown to the house station will not be protected for the return journey dwelling. The crew compartment was more likely to overheat. In order that broken automobile was flown dwelling with out anybody on board, and a substitute Soyuz flew autonomously to the station.

An surprising problem

That automobile, Soyuz MS-23, was to have carried three crew members to the station. However because it was empty, it fell to Rubio and the 2 Russians to finish the mission that the unique occupants of Soyuz MS-23 had been to have fulfilled. Accordingly, Rubio was instructed he must fly not one, however two six-month increments.

“It was surprising,” Rubio stated Wednesday, aboard the house station. “In some methods it has been an unimaginable problem.”

Due to the Soyuz leak, Rubio has now turn into the NASA astronaut with the longest steady time period in house. Final Monday, he broke the 355-day report set by Mark Vande Hei in 2021 and 2022, and when he lands later this month, Rubio may have spent 371 days in house.

Throughout a video name with NASA Administrator Invoice Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy, Rubio stated he had missed some essential moments over the summer season of 2023, together with a university commencement and a son heading off to West Level. Nonetheless, he stated he has loved the additional time in house.

Rubio will take his place atop this list of single spaceflight duration records by NASA astronauts.
Enlarge / Rubio will take his place atop this checklist of single spaceflight length information by NASA astronauts.


Rubio and his Russian colleagues have been in house for thus lengthy that they may have lived and labored alongside 28 colleagues from varied nations, together with Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. 5 totally different Crew Dragon missions have visited the house station throughout Rubio’s tenure—Crew 4, Crew 5, Crew 6, and Crew 7, in addition to the personal Axiom 2 mission.

“Simply having that range up right here was such a singular feeling,” Rubio stated.

Conserving his physique wholesome

A flight surgeon who earned a doctorate of drugs from the Uniformed Providers College of the Well being Sciences, Rubio stated he labored onerous to keep up his bodily health in house. His train routine consists of about 75 minutes every day on a resistance machine, which mimics weightlifting actions, to keep up his bone density. Moreover, he spends 30 to 45 minutes a day on a stationary bike or treadmill for cardiovascular exercise.

Rubio is aware of the toil that spending so lengthy in microgravity can tackle human bones, muscle power, and different components of the human physique that developed over a whole bunch of hundreds of thousands of years to stay in Earth’s gravity. “As a physician, I am actually excited to see how my physique does after I return,” Rubio stated.

Earlier than the decision, Nelson praised Rubio for willingly enterprise the year-long mission.

“Working and residing on the Worldwide House Station is the chance of a lifetime, however there is no such thing as a doubt that it additionally requires sacrifice, particularly time away from family and friends,” Nelson instructed Ars. “Frank dealt with the surprising delay in his return with grace and professionalism. We’re grateful for the good science he has carried out on his record-breaking keep and may’t wait to welcome him dwelling in a few weeks.”

NASA says that knowledge from missions like that flown by Rubio will help the house company because it plans for long-duration missions past low-Earth orbit. Maybe Rubio, 47, who joined NASA in 2017, will probably be among the many astronauts flying one among them.

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