‘He’s made a huge sacrifice’: US astronauts praise Frank Rubio for staying a year in space

Mr Rubio and two Russian cosmonauts had to stay an additional six months in space after getting stranded

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Nasa astronauts have praised their colleague Frank Rubio for staying a year on the International Space Station after he became stranded on the orbiting outpost when his capsule suffered catastrophic damage.

Mr Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petelin and Sergey Prokopyev travelled to the ISS on September 21, 2022, for what was meant to be a six-month mission.

But three months after docking, their Russian Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft was damaged – reportedly from a meteor strike.

Nasa and Russian space agency Roscosmos decided to extend their mission for another 180 days, with a rescue capsule scheduled to bring them back on September 27, 2023.

Woody Hoburg, a Nasa astronaut returning to Earth next Friday, said during a press conference on Wednesday that he was impressed by his colleague's leadership.

“We've been up here for six months. Frank thought when he flew to space, he would be here for six months,” said Mr Hoburg.

“And partway through his mission, he found out that it was extended to a year.

“His leadership up here has been incredible. He's been amazing to work with. And Frank is just making a huge sacrifice being away from his family for so long.

“I just want to really recognise the service he's given to us at the space station.”

Roscosmos said the Soyuz MS-22 was possibly damaged by a micrometeorite that made a tiny hole in the spacecraft, causing a coolant leak that was beyond repair.

It would not have been able to maintain a stable temperature for astronauts during their journey home.

Rescue craft Soyuz MS-23, which arrived uncrewed at the ISS in February with 430 kilograms of supplies, will bring the men back home.

Russia brought the damaged Soyuz MS-22 back to Earth in autonomous mode in March.

Stephen Bowen, who is returning next week alongside Mr Woody, also praised Mr Rubio.

“Frank has been an outstanding leader … and really set the example for us to follow throughout our six months on board,” he said.

The extra six months means Mr Rubio's stay will be the longest an American astronaut has spent in space.

Mr Rubio will beat the record of Mark Vande Hei, who spent 355 consecutive days on the ISS from 2020 to 2021.

Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, who were on the same mission as Mr Vande Hei, set a record time for Russians on the ISS. Mr Petelin and Mr Prokopyev are set to beat that.

Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov, who died last year, holds the world record for the longest single stay in space, spending 437 days on the Mir space station.

Mr Rubio and his three colleagues have been busy carrying out duties that would have been assigned to the crew that was meant to replace them.

These include doing maintenance work, carrying out spacewalks, outreach activities and science investigations.

Mr Woody and Mr Bowen are returning alongside UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.

Updated: August 23, 2023, 8:06 PM