American astronaut Frank Rubio, who has now spent more than 355 days in space, now holds the American record for the longest space mission.
“In some ways it was an incredible challenge, but in other ways it was an incredible blessing,” Rubio said in an interview with NASA on Wednesday.
He says he is now looking forward to reaching the 365 day target.
“I think this will be a very good milestone for our nation to reach,” says Rubio.
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, who spent a total of 437 days in space.
Rubio is due to return to Earth on September 27 and if all goes according to plan, he will have spent a total of 371 days in space by then.
When Rubio left for the International Space Station (ISS) last year on a Russian Soyuz vehicle with two astronauts on board, the plan was that he would stay for six months. This is the usual duration of such a space mission.
As per normal procedure, the rocket remained attached to the ISS and was due to take the three travelers home again in December. However, the craft developed a leak, probably due to the impact of a small meteorite that hit the emergency flight craft.
The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, brought the damaged rocket back to Earth and sent back another craft – with no crew on board.
Rubio and his two colleagues handled the mission for which the new crew would actually be responsible.
Rubio says they saw teams come and go while in space; a total of 28 people of different nationalities.
“If I’m doing the math right, that’s almost 5% of all the people who have ever been in space, which is incredible,” Rubio said Wednesday.
“Once you’re here, you’re really focused on the work that needs to be done and sometimes you forget to appreciate the fact that you’re floating around and have this amazing view below you.
“And so, for a year, it was psychologically a bit of a challenge,” Rubio also said.
The American record for most days in space over a lifetime is held by former astronaut Peggy Whitson, with a combined 675 days on various space missions.