An astronaut is ready to shut up after logging a full year in space

After spending a year listening to the constant hum of the complex machinery that makes the International Space Station livable, astronaut Frank Rubio is looking forward to some silence on Earth.

Mr. Rubio is scheduled to return to Earth next week after a 371-day mission, the longest solo spaceflight by an American astronaut.

On September 11, he surpassed the previous record for the longest continuous space flight by an American, and he will complete a full year in space on Thursday. in Press Conference On Tuesday, Mr. Rubio spoke by video from the International Space Station about what he was most looking forward to when he returns home on September 27: his family, fresh food, and silence.

“For me, honestly, obviously hugging my wife and kids is going to be super important, and I’ll probably focus on that for the first couple of days,” Rubio said, gently swaying in zero gravity.

He said he’s also looking forward to returning to his quiet backyard and “enjoying the trees and the silence.”

His homecoming will be all the more exciting because when Rubio blasted off on a Russian Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan last September, he expected to return home within six months, not a year.

Those plans changed after a coolant leak was discovered in the Soyuz spacecraft in December. A leak could have occurred Potentially deadly hot temperatures for the crew when they returned to Earth, so a different spacecraft was sent to the space station, delaying Mr. Rubio’s return flight.

Mr. Rubio said that if he had been asked to do a year-long assignment before starting training, he would have declined because of his family. But he said that if NASA had asked him to undertake such a deeper journey during his two years of training, he would have agreed because it was his job.

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He admitted that spending a year in space away from loved ones had taken a psychological toll, and said it was important to remain mentally strong because of the “absolutely unforgiving environment of the space station.”

“The one thing I tried to do, and I hope I accomplished — I certainly didn’t do it perfectly — is just stay positive and stay consistent throughout the mission despite the internal ups and downs,” Mr. Rubio said. . “You just try to focus on the job and the mission and stay consistent, because at the end of the day you have to show up and do the work every day.”

Before Mr. Rubio’s mission, Mark Vande Heij, who returned to Earth in March 2022 after 355 days aboard the International Space Station, held the record for the longest continuous spaceflight by an American. Dr. Valery Polyakov, the Russian cosmonaut who died last year, holds the world record for consecutive days spent in space: 437.

Aboard the space station, Mr. Rubio worked on a number of… Scientific projectsincluding investigations into how bacteria adapt to spaceflight and how exercise affects humans during long missions.

In a previous interview With NASA, Mr. Rubio said one of his favorite projects was studying tomato plants to see how air- and water-based farming techniques affect the plants. The research could help find ways to grow crops on a larger scale in space.

“I love working with this little plant and seeing it grow and develop,” he said.

At Tuesday’s news conference, Mr. Rubio spoke of the camaraderie aboard the space station. During his time there, he had 28 crew members, including his friend Laurel O’Haraa fellow NASA astronaut who arrived at the space station last week.

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When people first arrive at the space station, those on board help teach them basic tasks, such as how to use the bathroom, how to prepare food, and how to sleep, Mr. Rubio said.

“All the little things that you take for granted on Earth, you have to relearn here,” Rubio said.

Before joining the space program, Mr. Rubio He served in the US Army He joined the College of Medicine. He has flown more than 1,100 hours as a helicopter pilot, which included deployments to Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. He was born in Los Angeles, but considers Miami his hometown.

On his first day in space, Mr. Rubio said he felt sick as his body adjusted to life in zero gravity. He is now preparing for his muscles and bones to get used to standing and bearing weight again. He estimated it would take two to six months before he felt normal.

“This is my first mission, and I don’t know how my body will react,” he said.

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