Eleven days before Christmas last year, a micrometeorite struck the Soyuz spacecraft while it was docked at the International Space Station. This destroyed the vehicle’s cooling system, creating a dramatic spray of coolant into space for several hours until the coolant ran out.
Before this accidental attack, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio had plans to return home around spring break in 2023 to see his wife, Deborah, and their four children. For the former helicopter pilot and flight surgeon, six months in space was enough for his debut space flight.
But in the end, Russian and American engineers determined that the Soyuz spacecraft on which he and two Russian crew members (cosmonauts Sergei Prokopyev and Dmitri Peterin) flew to the space station was determined that it may be unsafe. The crew compartment could overheat. Therefore, the damaged vehicle flew back home without anyone on board, and a replacement Soyuz flew autonomously to the station.
That vehicle, a Soyuz MS-23, was to carry a crew of three to the station. But it was empty, so it was up to Rubio and the two Russians to carry out the mission the Soyuz MS-23 was supposed to carry out. Therefore, Rubio was told he would have to fly twice every six months instead of once.
“It was unexpected,” Rubio said Wednesday inside the space station. “In some ways, it was an incredible challenge.”
Thanks to the Soyuz leak, Rubio is now the longest-serving NASA astronaut in space. Last Monday, Rubio broke the record of 355 days set by Mark Vande Hei in 2021 and 2022, and when he lands later this month, he will have spent 371 days in space.
During a video call with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy, Rubio said he missed several important moments in the summer of 2023, including his college graduation and his son heading to West Point. he said. But he said he enjoyed the extra time in space.
Rubio and his Russian colleagues will be in space for a very long time and will live and work alongside 28 colleagues from various countries, including Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. During Rubio’s tenure, five of his different Crew Dragon missions visited the space station: Crew 4, Crew 5, Crew 6, Crew 7 and the civilian Axiom 2 mission.
“It was a very unique feeling just to have that diversity here,” Rubio said.
keep his body healthy
Rubio, a flight surgeon who earned his medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, said he worked hard to stay fit in space. His exercise routine consists of about 75 minutes each day on a resistance machine that mimics weightlifting activity to maintain bone density. In addition, he is on a stationary bike or treadmill for 30-45 minutes a day for cardiovascular activity.
Rubio knows that spending long periods of time in microgravity can damage bones, muscle strength, and other parts of the human body that have evolved over hundreds of millions of years to survive in Earth’s gravity. There is. “As a doctor, I’m really looking forward to seeing what my body looks like when I get back,” Rubio said.
Before the phone call, Nelson praised Rubio for his willingness to take on the year-long assignment.
“Working and living on the International Space Station is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but it certainly requires sacrifices, especially time away from friends and family,” said Nelson. told. “Frank handled the unexpected delay in his return with grace and professionalism. We are grateful for the great science he did during his record-breaking stay, and in the weeks following I can’t wait to bring him home.”
NASA says Data from missions like the one Rubio flew will help space agencies plan longer-term missions beyond low-Earth orbit. Rubio, 47, who joined NASA in 2017, will likely be one of the astronauts flying one of the craft.