Astronaut and Cosmonaut Return to Earth after Being Trapped for a Year

( – American astronaut Frank Rubio, 47, has unintentionally set the US national record for the longest single stay in space after becoming trapped along with two Russian cosmonauts. The previous record holder, an astronaut named Mark Vande Hei, lost his record after his 355 days in space was surpassed by Rubio’s 371-day-long sojourn. His spaceflight was scheduled to last just 180 days but was complicated by damage caused to his capsule by floating space junk.

Rubio’s damaged capsule was also the temporary home to two Russian cosmonauts, 48-year-old Sergey Prokopyev and 40-year-old Dmitri Petelin. For Petelin and Rubio this eventful voyage was their first trip into space, whereas Prokopyev had just one previous spaceflight under his belt. By the end of the trip, the three men had travelled a grand total of 157.4 million miles and managed to orbit the earth an impressive 5963 times.

The spaceflight was part of a tradition of joint endeavor by Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts. The three men were living and working on board the Soyuz capsule as part of an arrangement between NASA and the Russian equivalent agency, Rosocosmos, which sought to keep access to the mainly Russian-operated International Space Station open to both Russians and Americans.

It was the Soyuz MS-22 space capsule that took the men to the ISS on September 21, 2022, to begin their work in the floating laboratory. It was docked to the side of the space station and kept for later use but began leaking radiator coolant after just three months. It is thought that floating space debris may have crashed into it and caused the leak. After investigation, the capsule was deemed unsuitable to take the men back home. Work began on a replacement capsule, the Soyuz MS-23, in February 2023.

The original plan had been for the MS-23 to take them all home, but instead Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin were all ordered to continue their work aboard the space station for even longer. Officials overseeing the mission ultimately decided to create yet another capsule, the Soyuz MS-24, and send that with a new crew to replace the original three.

The three finally landed back on Earth on Wednesday September 27 when their Soyuz capsule parachuted into Kazakhstan. Father-of-four Rubio told reporters that he was glad to be home and spoke of his gratitude for his family’s resilience in his extended absence. NASA currently has no plans for any further year-long missions, although Rubio did add that had he known he  would be in space for such a long time, he probably would not have gone.

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