NASA astronaut Frank Rubio came down to Earth after completing the longest continuous mission in space ever accomplished by an American.
Rubio finally touched down in Kazakhstan in a parachute-assisted landing with his Russian crewmates Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, after orbiting the Earth 5,936 times while living on the International Space Station (ISS) for 371 days.
Rubio broke another record to became the first American to spend an entire year in orbit, beating the record fellow NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei’s set in March 2022 with 355 days spent on the ISS.
According to NASA, Vande Hei has contributed to numerous studies during his mission and has been involved in six science investigations supported by NASA’s Human Research Program.
This record-breaking journey is not just a milestone, but also a significant contribution to our understanding of long-duration space missions, according to NASA administrator Bill Nelson.
How Did Astronaut Frank Rubio End Up In Space For So Long?
Rubio’s mission was originally planned to last only six months, but due to an unexpected coolant leak caused by a micrometeorite or space debris, he and his crewmates were unable to return to Earth.
During the time it took to organize a replacement crew and an alternative spacecraft, Rubio witnessed 15 visiting spacecraft and traveled over 157 million miles.
While Rubio holds the record for the longest American spaceflight, it is important to note that this mission is only the third longest spaceflight in human history.
The top spots are claimed by two Russian cosmonauts who lived aboard the Mir space station for in the 1990s.
“It’s good to be home,” Rubio remarked after he was helped out of the Soyuz capsule that returned him to Earth.
What Will A Year In Space Do To NASA Astronaut Frank Rubio’s Body?
According to experts, spending an extended period in space, especially one year, leads to various changes in human physiology and psychology.
One significant change is experienced due to microgravity, as astronauts can float inside or outside the spacecraft during spacewalks.
It results in muscle mass decline due to decreased use and lack of exercise equipment stimulus, as well as bone loss.
What Kind Of Side Effects Will NASA Astronaut Frank Rubio Experience Back On Earth?
Upon returning to Earth, crew members often struggle with neurovestibular challenges, which involve maintaining a sense of position and balance as gravity changes.
Coordinating movement like walking and maintaining balance can be problematic after an extended period without these activities. Acclimation may take a few for four- to six-month missions and longer for extended missions like Rubio’s.
In microgravity, blood and cerebrospinal fluid tend to shift upward from the lower extremities to the head and eyes, causing structural changes in the brain and eyes.
This phenomenon, known as Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome, can lead to eye swelling, blurry vision, and an upward shift of the brain.
Extended periods of isolation and living in closed environments can result in physical and psychological effects like behavioral changes, fatigue, stress, and sleep loss.
It is crucial to maintain a healthy environment for astronauts during their missions, as the immune system can be affected, potentially leading to changes due to chronic stress.