A NASA astronaut safely returned to Earth on Wednesday after spending 371 days in space, a record in spaceflight for American astronauts.
Frank Rubio of NASA and his crewmates, the Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, made a safe, parachute-assisted landing southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 7:17 a.m. Eastern time.
After post-landing medical exams, the crew will return to Karaganda, Kazakhstan. Mr. Rubio will then board a NASA plane bound for his return to Houston, where he lives with his family.
“For me, honestly, obviously, hugging my wife and kids is going to be paramount, and I’ll probably focus on that for the first couple days,” Mr. Rubio said during a news conference from space last week.
Mr. Rubio had expected to be gone only six months when he embarked on his journey on the Russian Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan last September.
His return was upended in December, after mission control found a coolant leak in the Soyuz spacecraft. The leak could have created dangerously hot temperatures for the crew on their return to Earth, so a different spacecraft had to be sent to the space station, delaying Mr. Rubio’s return. The single spaceflight by Mr. Rubio surpassed the record of 355 days for a U.S. astronaut, which was previously held by Mark Vande Hei, NASA said.
Mr. Rubio’s unplanned extended stay was more than just hitting another milestone, said Bill Nelson, the administrator of NASA.
“It’s a major contribution to our understanding of long-duration space missions,” Mr. Nelson said in a statement. “Our astronauts make extraordinary sacrifices away from their homes and loved ones to further discovery.”
During his prolonged stay, Mr. Rubio made “invaluable scientific contributions,” Mr. Nelson said. The mission provided researchers the opportunity to observe the effects that long spaceflight has on humans as the agency plans to return to the moon with the Artemis missions and to explore Mars, he added.
Mr. Rubio spent hours conducting research on a variety of topics, from plants to physical sciences studies. These included investigations into how bacteria adapt to spaceflight and how exercise affects humans during long missions.
During his mission, Mr. Rubio completed about 5,936 orbits aboard the space station. He journeyed more than 157 million miles, roughly the equivalent of 328 trips to the moon and back.