NASA astronaut Frank Rubio is set to break the record for the longest-ever space mission conducted by an American astronaut — by accident.
Rubio traveled to the International Space Station on Sept. 21, 2022, expecting to carry out a six-month mission. But now, he’ll stay in space for over a year. That will make his mission the longest-ever by an American astronaut, surpassing Mark Vande Hei’s 2022 mission record of 355 days and Scott Kelly‘s 340-day mission, which ended in 2016.
Rubio was initially set to return to Earth this spring, but the spacecraft carrying him and his Russian colleagues had a coolant leak in December. As a result, the Soyuz MS-22 capsule was sent back to Earth without a crew.
The replacement MS-23 spacecraft was launched and docked with the International Space Station on Feb. 23 to bring the crew safely back to Earth. Rubio is now expected to return to Earth aboard the MS-23 on Sept. 27 or later, after a total of 371 days in space.
While that is a new U.S. record, it is still short of the world record for the longest continuous time spent in space, which was set by late Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov at 437 days in orbit aboard Russia’s Mir space station in 1994-1995.
Rubio arrived at the ISS after boarding the Russian Soyuz MS-22 bound for the station based on an agreement made between the U.S. and Russia’s respective space stations, NASA and Roscosmos. Under the agreement, Rubio was to ride the Soyuz MS-22 while Russian astronaut Anna Kikina was to board a SpaceX Crew Dragon mission, which recently landed on March 11.
Although the war in Ukraine has in some ways strained the relationship between the U.S. and Russia, the relationship between the two countries’ space stations is crucial for the ongoing success of the ISS, according to NASA.
Congratulations to Rubio on is extended trip in space, even if it was unexpected!