US astronaut Frank Rubio became a record-breaker after spending an astonishing 371 continuous days in space – the longest-ever stint by an American.
Following his 53 weeks on the International Space Station (ISS), the 47-year-old safely touched back down on Earth in Kazakhstan – accompanied by Russian crewmates Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin.
During his time onboard the ISS, Rubio orbited the Earth a staggering 5,936 times.
In the process, he became the first American to spend an entire year in orbit – beating Virginia-born astronaut Mark Vande Hei’s record by two weeks.
His accomplishments were hailed by NASA administrator Bill Nelson as not just a milestone for him but also a “major contribution to our understanding of long-duration space missions”.
In a statement, Nelson continued: “NASA is immensely grateful for Frank’s dedicated service to our nation and the invaluable scientific contributions he made on the International Space Station.
“He embodies the true pioneer spirit that will pave the way for future exploration to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.”
Rubio’s stint in space was not supposed to be a record-breaker as his debut trip to the ISS was scheduled to last just six months.
With his crewmates, Rubio’s stay was originally penciled in to end in March however they became trapped aboard the ISS when their original spacecraft home sprung a surprise coolant leak.
It emerged that either a micrometeorite or piece of space debris had struck the spacecraft around three months into the mission, rendering a return trip at that point unsafe.
During the period it took for a replacement spacecraft and new crew to be organized, Rubio saw 15 visiting spacecraft and traveled an astonishing 157 million miles (253m km).
His one-year stay in space is the third longest in history, with Russia claiming the two top spots during the Nineties.
When asked if he originally intended to stay in space for a year if asked, Rubio said he would have replied: “Thank you but no thank you.”
A father-of-four, the astronaut said if he had known a 12-month period away from his family was on the cards things might have been different for him.
Selected as an astronaut in 2017, he said “hugging my wife and kids is going to be paramount, and I’ll probably focus on that for the first couple of days”.
The astronaut added he was also excited to enjoy the “trees and silence” of his garden at home.
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