Three space travelers, including an American NASA astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts, have safely returned to Earth after a year-long stay in space. This marked a record-breaking achievement for the American astronaut, Frank Rubio, who set the record for the longest US spaceflight.
The trio landed in a remote area of Kazakhstan, descending in a Soyuz capsule that was brought in as a replacement after their original ride was damaged and lost all its coolant due to space debris while docked to the International Space Station. Instead of a planned 180-day mission, they ended up spending a total of 371 days in space.
The Soyuz capsule that brought them back was a replacement launched in February, as Russian engineers suspect that a piece of space junk pierced the radiator of their original capsule. To ensure the safety of the astronauts and the capsule’s electronics, the decision was made to return empty.
During their stay in space, the astronauts traveled approximately 157 million miles, circling the Earth nearly 6,000 times. This journey surpassed the previous record set by Mark Vande Hei, another NASA astronaut. The overall world record for the longest spaceflight is still held by a Russian astronaut, who spent 437 days in space in the mid-1990s.
The psychological aspect of spending such a long duration in space proved to be more challenging than expected for Rubio. He missed important family milestones, including his children’s achievements and graduations. At a news conference prior to the return, Rubio expressed that he would not have agreed to a full year in space if asked at the beginning.
While this record-breaking mission has come to an end, NASA currently has no plans for more year-long missions. The safe return of the astronauts highlights the importance of space junk mitigation measures to ensure the safety of future space journeys.
– The Guardian