NASA astronaut Frank Rubio returns to Earth after a record-breaking, year-long flight on the US space station

Outgoing space station commander Sergei Prokopyev and his Soyuz crewmates, co-pilot Dmitry Petlin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, prepared Tuesday to return to Earth early Wednesday to end a yearlong stay of 371 days in orbit — the longest flight. In American space history.

When the trio launched in September 2022, they expected to spend six months aboard the ISS, the normal tour of duty for a long-duration crew.

Outgoing space station commander Sergei Prokopyev handed over command of the International Space Station, along with a symbolic key to the laboratory, to ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen during a short ceremony on Tuesday. Prokopyev, Dmitry Petlin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio (all three in black T-shirts, Rubio on the left) plan to return to Earth on Wednesday to conclude a year-long sojourn in space.

NASA


But a coolant leak disabled the Soyuz MS-22/68S ferry last December, prompting the Russians to… Alternative launch — Soyuz MS-23/69S — last February. This meant that Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio had to stay aloft for an additional six months to get the Russian crew rotation schedule back on track.

If all goes well, they will finally return home on Wednesday, detaching from the space station at 3:54 a.m. EDT. After re-entering the atmosphere, the Soyuz crew module, suspended under a large canopy, is expected to stabilize a paradox landing near the town of Dzhezkazgan, touching down on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 7:17 a.m. EDT (5:17). pm local time).

During a short change of command ceremony on Tuesday, ISS Expedition 69 commander Prokopyev handed the laboratory over to ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen.

Speaking to the departing crew members, Mogensen offered congratulations, saying: “You have demonstrated resilience, professionalism and agility in the face of unexpected challenges and great uncertainty.”

“It’s one thing to launch into space, knowing you’re going to be here for a year,” he added. “It’s a very different thing for you and your families to find out at the end of your six-month mission that you’ll be spending an additional six months in space. But you took it into your own hands, and you excelled.”

He thanked Prokopyev, Petilin and Rubio for their “competence, dedication and hard work” in keeping the station ship in shape and “setting us up for success” on ISS Expedition 70.

“We hope to leave the space station in as good a condition as we found it,” Mogensen concluded. “No one deserves to go home to their families more than you. We wish you a smooth flight and a smooth landing.”

Returning Soyuz MS-23/69S crew (clockwise from top left): NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, flight engineer Dmitry Petlin, and Commander Sergei Prokopyev.

NASA


Prokopyev, Petelin, and Rubio will be replaced by Soyuz MS-24/70S commander Oleg Kononenko, flight engineer Nikolai Chub, and NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara, who arrived at the space station in September 15.

Mogensen flew to the station On August 26th On board the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft with NASA’s Yasmine Moghbeli, Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa and astronaut Konstantin Borisov.

Prokopyev, Petylin and Rubio plan to bid farewell to their seven station colleagues on Tuesday night, board the replacement ferry ship Soyuz MS-23/69S and wait for separation from the Russian multi-port unit Prichal.

Assuming an on-time landing, the crew will have logged 370 days, 21 hours and 22 minutes off-planet in a journey covering 5,936 orbits and 157 million miles. The total time Prokopyev will spend in space over two flights will be 568 days.

The late cosmonaut Valery Polyakov holds the world record for the longest single spaceflight, spending 438 days aboard the Russian Mir space station in 1994-95. Prokopyev, Petilin and Rubio will move to third place on the list, behind retired cosmonaut Sergei Avdeev, who spent 380 days aboard Mir in 1998-99.

The longest previous American flight is by Mark Vande, who spent 355 days aboard the International Space Station in 2021-2022.

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