A NASA astronaut now holds the record for the longest U.S. spaceflight after returning to Earth Wednesday, but the feat did not come voluntarily.
American Frank Rubio and two Russian cosmonauts were stuck in space for just over a year. The trio landed in a remote area of Kazakhstan, descending in a Soyuz capsule that was rushed up as a replacement after their original ride was hit by space junk and lost all its coolant while docked at the International Space Station.
The mission that was supposed to be 180 days long turned into 371 days, which meant Rubio spent more than two weeks longer in space than Mark Vande Hei, who held NASA’s previous endurance record for a single spaceflight.
Just last week, Rubio said he would have declined his space mission had he known he would be in orbit so long.
RECORD-BREAKING ASTRONAUT REVEALS HE WOULD HAVE DECLINED ASSIGNMENT IF HE HAD KNOWN THIS
NASA astronaut Frank Rubio left, Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, center, and Dmitri Petelin sit in chairs outside the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft after they landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Sept. 27, 2023. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
The Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft lands in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan with NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, Sept. 27, 2023. The extended mission means Rubio now holds the record for longest spaceflight by an American. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
“If they had asked me upfront before you start training, because you do train for a year or two years before your mission, I probably would’ve declined,” Rubio told reporters from the ISS during a NASA press conference. “That’s only because of family things that were going on this past year.”
“Had I known that I had to miss those very important events, I just would have had to say ‘thank you, but no thank you,’” he added.
The replacement Soyuz capsule that brought Rubio and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin back was launched in February.
NASA DETECTS MOLECULE ON ANOTHER PLANET THAT CAN ONLY BE PRODUCED BY LIFE
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Astronaut Frank Rubio peers out of a window aboard the SpaceX Dragon Freedom spacecraft docked to the International Space Station. (NASA via AP)
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From left, Frank Rubio, Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin walk to their rocket prior the launch at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Sept. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky, Pool, File)
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Rescue team members carry Frank Rubio shortly after the landing of the Russian Soyuz MS-23 space capsule, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. (Roscosmos space corporation via AP)
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“It’s good to be home,” Rubio, a 47-year-old Army doctor and helicopter pilot, said after being pulled from the capsule.
Russia still holds the world record of 437 days, set in the mid-1990s.
Fox News’ Jon Michael Raasch and The Associated Press contributed to this report.