WASHINGTON – The astronaut Frank Rubio broke the record for the longest in orbit mission by an American, spending more than 355 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
“In some ways, it’s been an incredible challenge. But in other ways, it’s been an incredible blessing,” Mr Rubio said on Wednesday, from the ISS during a chat with Nasa that was broadcast live.
Having broken the old record on Monday, Mr Rubio said he was now looking forward to reaching 365 days.
“I think that’ll be a really good milestone for our nation to achieve,” said Mr Rubio, who is a doctor by training and a helicopter pilot.
The previous US record was set in 2022 by Mark Vande, who spent 355 days in space.
The world record is held by Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov at 437 days.
Mr Rubio is scheduled to return to Earth on Sept 27; at that point he will have spent 371 days in space.
When Mr Rubio travelled to the ISS last year on a Russian Soyuz rocket with two cosmonauts, the plan was for him to stay six months, which is the usual mission length.
As per normal procedure, that rocket stayed hooked up to the ISS as an emergency escape vessel if necessary, and was supposed to bring those three travellers home in December. But it suffered a leak, probably due to impact from a tiny meteorite.
So the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, brought that rocket home and sent up another with no crew aboard.
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