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This Salvadoran-born physician is the NASA astronaut with the most consecutive days in space.
On Wednesday, U.S.-Salvadoran astronaut Frank Rubio returned aboard the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft to Earth after spending 371 days in space. This achievement made him the NASA astronaut with the most consecutive days in space and the first Hispanic to accomplish this feat.
Rubio, 47, landed in the Russian descent capsule from the International Space Station (ISS) at 11:17 GMT on the Kazakh steppe, southeast of the town of Zhezkazgan, alongside cosmonauts Sergei Prokopiev and Sergei Petelin.
After disembarking from the Soyuz spacecraft, the NASA astronaut, always wearing a smile and giving a thumbs-up, said, "It's good to be home," meaning back on Earth.
A Milestone for NASA
In his final communication from the ISS, the NASA astronaut declared that today marks a "unique milestone in U.S. space flights." Rubio returned to Earth after being on the ISS with four different crews and holding two records.
He is now the NASA astronaut with the most consecutive days in space, surpassing Mark Vande Hei on Sept. 11, with 355 consecutive days on the ISS.
Additionally, Rubio, born in Los Angeles but with his mother, Myrna Argueta, still living in El Salvador, is the first Hispanic to achieve both the record for most consecutive days in space and the record for total days accumulated in space, all while completing his first mission aboard the space station.
"It is a great honor to represent Hispanics. The message to the youth is to keep moving forward with work and education; anything is possible. It is important that our community continues to progress and improve our country. I believe that Latinos will be a significant part of U.S. future," he emphasized in his recent statements from space.
The Hispanic astronaut acknowledged that if he had known before starting his training for this mission that he would spend over a year on the ISS, he "probably would have declined" NASA's offer, mainly because he missed significant family events during the year he spent in space.
Rubio expressed gratitude for the support of his wife, Deborah, and their four teenage children, as their "resilience and strength" helped him overcome this entire mission, for which he had prepared for five years.
In total, the astronaut's mission, who was selected by NASA in 2017, covered 253.3 million kilometers and completed 5,963 orbits around Earth.
Rubio achieved these records not because his mission was supposed to last more than a year but because he was stranded for over six months on the ISS.
Rubio was launched on September 21, 2022, aboard the Soyuz MS-22 and was initially scheduled to return in March 2023.
However, in mid-December of 2022, the Russian space agency Roscosmos detected a malfunction in the cooling system on the outer hull of the spacecraft due to the impact of a micrometeoroid.
This made the return of Rubio, Prokopiev, and Petelin aboard this Russian spacecraft too risky. The spacecraft returned without a crew to the Russian Baikonur cosmodrome on March 28.
On February 24, Roscosmos sent a replacement unmanned spacecraft, the Soyuz MS-23, to the ISS to pick up the NASA astronaut and the two cosmonauts and finally return them to Earth today.
Rubio admitted last week that it was tough when the decision to stay a year on the international orbital platform became "real."
He also mentioned that the "psychological factor" was more exhausting than he had thought on the ISS, but having an excellent team around him, staying busy, finding time to relax, and, above all, staying in touch with his loved ones at home helped.
Rubio estimates it will take him between two to six months on Earth to fully recover from his mission.
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