In an astronomical twist of fate, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, at the spry age of 47, has rocketed his way into the history books. Just this past Thursday, he notched a solid year of orbiting our pale blue dot, marking a mind-boggling milestone that’s enough to make the most seasoned space enthusiasts raise an eyebrow or two.
Frank’s been up there on the International Space Station, rubbing shoulders with Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin, since the distant days of September 21, 2022. The plan was simple, a six-month sojourn in the stars, courtesy of a trusty ride on Russia’s Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft.
But oh, how plans have a habit of turning topsy-turvy when you’re out in the great cosmic unknown. Just as December of that same year rolled around, with a spacewalk penciled in, trouble came knocking. An external leak, a tiny little micrometeorite impact, had other ideas. The Soyuz MS-22 found itself playing hooky from its crew return duties, and suddenly, our trio of astronauts had their stay extended by a whopping six months. No vacation days for these folks!
So, one uncrewed Soyuz MS-22 took the express route back to Earth, while MS-23 swooped in like a cosmic savior in February 2023, ensuring the crew’s safe return at the end of September.
And speaking of returns, the countdown has officially begun. Come September 27, in the vast steppes of Kazakhstan, Frank Rubio and his space buddies will have chalked up an astonishing 371 consecutive days in space. If that doesn’t make you blink twice, consider this: the grand prize for most consecutive days spent beyond our blue sky, a whopping 437 days, still belongs to Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov.
NASA, never one to miss a chance for some digital clapping and congratulatory emojis, took to the social media stage on X and belted out, “Congratulations to NASA’s own Frank Rubio for clocking in one full year aboard the @Space_Station. Rookie Rubio has just shattered the record for the longest solo space dance by an American astronaut. Ever.”
Frank made his record-breaking splash on September 11, eclipsing the previous American record of 355 days set by the now-retired NASA ace, Mark Vande Hei.
Now, let’s not think it’s been all zero-gravity goofing around up there. Oh no, this orbiting crew has been in the lab, turning up the scientific heat. Bacteria’s been feeling the squeeze, as they study how it deals with life aloft. Tomatoes, of all things, have been taking root in space using H2O and air. And there’s even been some cosmic IKEA action, testing out an expandable capsule for future cosmic condos.
In the world of family, well, that’s where things get personal. Frank admits, in a media briefing that tugged at heartstrings, that if he’d known the year would see him miss those precious family moments, he might have politely declined the offer. You see, the sky might be the limit, but family’s where the heart truly soars.
And as the countdown continues, Frank, ever the down-to-earth astronaut, knows there’s no walking off into the sunset. After his cosmic sojourn, a medical examination awaits him back home. You see, space legs don’t always adjust to Earth’s gravity so kindly. Frank’s ready to face the music, or in his case, the rehab, which could stretch on for a cosmic eternity. But hey, that’s all part of the wild ride, isn’t it?