A NASA astronaut now holds the record for the longest U.S. spaceflight after returning to Earth Wednesday, but the feat did not come voluntarily.
American Frank Rubio and two Russian cosmonauts were stuck in space for just over a year. The trio landed in a remote area of Kazakhstan, descending in a Soyuz capsule that was rushed up as a replacement after their original ride was hit by space junk and lost all its coolant while docked at the International Space Station.
The mission that was supposed to be 180 days long turned into 371 days, which meant Rubio spent more than two weeks longer in space than Mark Vande Hei, who held NASA’s previous endurance record for a single spaceflight.
Just last week, Rubio said he would have declined his space mission had he known he would be in orbit so long.
NASA astronaut Frank Rubio left, Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, center, and Dmitri Petelin sit in chairs outside the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft after they landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Sept. 27, 2023. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
The Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft lands in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan with NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, Sept. 27, 2023. The extended mission means Rubio now holds the record for longest spaceflight by an American. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
“If they had asked me upfront before you start training, because you do train for a year or two years before your mission, I probably would’ve declined,” Rubio told reporters from the ISS during a NASA press conference. “That’s only because of family things that were going on this past year.”
“Had I known that I had to miss those very important events, I just would have had to say ‘thank you, but no thank you,’” he added.
The replacement Soyuz capsule that brought Rubio and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin back was launched in February.
“It’s good to be home,” Rubio, a 47-year-old Army doctor and helicopter pilot, said after being pulled from the capsule.
Russia still holds the world record of 437 days, set in the mid-1990s.
Fox News’ Jon Michael Raasch and The Associated Press contributed to this report.