NASA’s Frank Rubio breaks US spaceflight duration record
During the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2023, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio broke the record for the longest single spaceflight by an American citizen.
Rubio, 47, surpassed the record previously held by NASA’s Mark Vande Hei, who returned to Earth in March of 2022 after a 355.2-day stay aboard the International Space Station.
Rubio, along with two of his Russian colleagues, cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin, now also have the record of the longest serving crew aboard the ISS. They are expected to depart the outpost in Soyuz MS-23 as early as Sept. 27, which would bring their total stay to just over 371 days — more than a full year.
Only two other people, both cosmonauts serving aboard the Russian Mir space station, had longer stays in orbit: Sergei Avdeyev for 379.6 days in 1998/1999 and Valeri Polyakov for 437.7 days in 1994/1995.
Rubio, Prokopyev and Petlin launched to the space station on Sept. 21, 2022, for a planned six-month stay. However, their Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft suffered an external cooling loop leak in December, likely caused by a micrometeoroid impact. This prompted Roscosmos to send up an uncrewed Soyuz MS-23 to act as a replacement for the compromised spacecraft.
Without a working external coolant loop, the interior of the Soyuz spacecraft would likely have gotten uncomfortably hot for the trio while in their launch and entry suits. As such, Soyuz MS-22 returned to Earth uncrewed.
The original crew for Soyuz MS-23 was bumped to Soyuz MS-24, which is now scheduled to launch Sept. 15 with Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko, Nikolai Chub and NASA’s Loral O’Hara. Those three are slated to reside aboard the ISS for about six months (likely longer for the two cosmonauts), replacing Rubio, Prokopyev and Petlin.
Also aboard the ISS are the four members of the SpaceX Crew-7 mission: NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen, Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa and Russian cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov. They arrived at the outpost in late August, also for a six-month stay.
Once Soyuz MS-23 departs with the yearlong crew, the remaining seven astronauts and cosmonauts will form Expedition 70.
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.