How a NASA Astronaut Unintentionally Broke the Record for the Longest Stay In Space

( – Going into space is an honor that not many people get the chance to do. Astronauts train and undergo rigorous medical examinations to ensure that they can handle the stress of living in a shuttle or on the International Space Station (ISS) for extended periods of time. Each mission has a specified time frame, though sometimes things go wrong and those stays are extended.

That’s what happened to NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, whose original six-month mission turned into one that lasted more than a year, earning him the title of the longest US astronaut in space.

Rubio’s Mission

Rubio’s mission began in September 2022, when he, along with two Russian cosmonauts, were deployed to the ISS. When their shuttle sprung a coolant leak while docked, they couldn’t very well take it back to Earth until it was repaired. Thus, his six-month mission was unexpectedly extended. When he returned to Earth in September 2023, he had spent a total of 371 days in space, the longest of any NASA astronaut. The longest anyone has stayed in space was just over 437 days, and that honor is held by Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov.

Rubio spoke with Ari Shapiro, host of “All Things Considered,” about the mission and his extended stay. He said initially the news that he wouldn’t be returning in six months was “challenging” because he would be away from his family for longer, but everyone onboard was confident that “the team was going to take care of” them. Instead of repairing the shuttle, officials decided the best course of action was to send a new one up. In the meantime, once the “initial shock and surprise” wore off, he focused on the mission and “making the best of” his situation.

Struggles on the ISS

One of the struggles Rubio experienced while on the ISS was the lack of privacy and the small space. He said the vessel is “about the size of a two- to three-bedroom house, but really, it’s … composed entirely of hallways,” and crew quarters, the only real place to get some privacy are “the size of a small phone booth.” He said another challenge was being indoors all the time, especially since he loves being outside.

When asked what the biggest physical challenges were, Rubio said that his training ensured he didn’t lose a lot of bone density, and he actually “lost less” than most of the prior missions because of the work he put in. However, he did have soreness on the bottom of his feet and in his lower back.

Overall, Rubio said being in space longer than expected wasn’t terrible, though he’s very happy to be home. Now, just over four months after he’s returned, he says he’s “about 90 to 95% back to perfectly normal.”

Copyright 2024,