Astronauts return to Earth after accidentally spending a year in space and going around the world 6,000 times

28 September 2023, 08:11

Frank Rubio
Frank Rubio. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Three astronauts have touched back down on Earth after inadvertently spending a year in space.

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American Frank Rubio and Russians Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin landed in remote Kazakhstan, the country from where Russia operates its space programme.

Their trip to the International Space Station was meant to last just six months but end up taking twice as long, because their original shuttle was damaged by space debris.

That meant a replacement Soyuz capsule had to be sent up to take them back down to the ground.

Mr Rubio, 47, broke the US record for the longest time in space - spending 371 days orbiting the Earth. The world record of 437 days, set by Russians in the 1990s, still stands.

Read more: NASA names first woman and first black man to embark on Moon mission

Read more: British ex-Paralympian John McFall selected to become first disabled astronaut

Frank Rubio
Frank Rubio. Picture: Alamy

He orbited the world 5,936 times in a journey of more than 157 million miles, which is roughly the equivalent of 328 trips to the Moon and back.

The original capsule that was meant to take the three men back down to earth suffered damage to its on-board coolant after being hit by space junk.

"Frank’s record-breaking time in space is not just a milestone; it’s a major contribution to our understanding of long-duration space missions," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

"Our astronauts make extraordinary sacrifices away from their homes and loved ones to further discovery.

Frank Rubio
Frank Rubio. Picture: Getty

"NASA is immensely grateful for Frank’s dedicated service to our nation and the invaluable scientific contributions he made on the International Space Station.

"He embodies the true pioneer spirit that will pave the way for future exploration to the Moon, Mars, and beyond."

Mr Rubio, Mr Prokopyev and Mr Petelin landed southeast of Dzhezkazgan, a remote town in Kazakhstan, on Wednesday.

They were taken to the larger city of Karaganda, from where Mr Rubio will fly to Houston in the US.

Frank Rubio
Frank Rubio. Picture: Getty

Mr Rubio said he would never have gone up if he had known he would be away from his family for a year.

He missed family milestones, such as his daughter finishing her first year at military academy.

"It’s good to be home," he said after landing.

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