American Astronaut Frank Rubio Sets Records in Historic Space Return
Rubio's Year-Long Journey: Triumph, Challenges, and International Collaboration
In a momentous return to Earth, US astronaut Frank Rubio, accompanied by Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin, touched down in the vast steppe of Kazakhstan on Wednesday. Their triumphant return followed an unprecedented journey that shattered records and marked a significant milestone in space exploration.
The trio’s journey back to Earth commenced with the undocking of their Soyuz MS-23 capsule from the International Space Station (ISS), taking place a minute ahead of schedule. It took approximately three and a half hours for the capsule to navigate its descent, ultimately landing southeast of Zhezqazghan.
A jubilant Rubio, aged 47, emerged from the capsule with a beaming smile, expressing his relief at being back on Earth. By his side were Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, 48, and Dmitry Petelin, 40, who were equally ecstatic about their safe return to the planet’s surface.
When asked about their well-being, Rubio enthusiastically commented, “Fantastic, yeah, everybody did really well.” Rubio was presented with a traditional Russian matryoshka doll, while Prokopyev, holding a watermelon he had requested upon landing, displayed a broad smile. In response to a question about his most precious souvenir from space, Prokopyev humorously replied, “A good mood.”
Russian mission control, stationed at Star City outside Moscow, confirmed that the crew members were in excellent health after their extraordinary journey. Their landing occurred precisely on schedule at 1117 GMT.
Frank Rubio’s journey into the annals of space exploration history began when he surpassed the previous NASA record for consecutive days spent in space, previously held by now-retired US astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who spent 355 days in orbit. Rubio’s remarkable feat also established him as the first American to complete a full year in space.
However, while Rubio’s achievement is impressive, it falls short of the world record held by Russia’s Valeri Polyakov, who spent an astounding 437 consecutive days and 18 hours aboard the Mir space station between January 1994 and March 1995. Polyakov, a legendary figure in space exploration, passed away last September at the age of 80.
Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, noted that Sergey Prokopyev’s cumulative time spent in space exceeded 567 days, encompassing multiple missions.
Frank Rubio’s journey to the stars had an unlikely beginning. Born to Salvadoran parents in Los Angeles, he spent his formative years in Miami. Prior to becoming an astronaut, Rubio achieved certification as a family physician and flight surgeon. He also served as a US Army special forces officer and earned distinction as a decorated Blackhawk helicopter pilot, participating in combat missions in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Speaking to reporters from space eight days before his return to Earth, Rubio admitted that had he known in advance that his mission would extend for at least a year, he might have declined the opportunity due to family obligations. Nevertheless, he expressed gratitude and humility, acknowledging the honor of his mission’s extension.
Rubio anticipates that it will take several months to fully readjust to life on Earth, especially regaining his sense of balance and strength after an extended stay in microgravity. He eagerly looks forward to the tranquility of his backyard, a stark contrast to the constant hum of machinery aboard the ISS.
The return of Rubio, Prokopyev, and Petelin marks the end of an extraordinary chapter in space exploration, a testament to human endurance and the spirit of international cooperation that thrives in the cosmos. Their achievements will undoubtedly inspire future generations of astronauts and scientists to push the boundaries of human exploration even further.