December 10, 2023

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It looks like NASA will finally have an astronaut living in space for an entire year

It looks like NASA will finally have an astronaut living in space for an entire year

Zoom in / NASA’s Frank Rubio is on his way to becoming the first American astronaut to spend an entire year in space.


With great fanfare, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly returned from space Nearly seven years ago, I touched down on the barren, frozen steppes of Kazakhstan inside a small, rugged Soyuz spacecraft.

NASA made a lot of this trip, calling it the agency’s first mission for a year. PBS was among the broadcast television stations that offered extended features on the Kelly mission, Her series is multi-episode It was titled “A Year in Space”. But the dirty little secret is that, due to the inevitable mix-up in spaceflight schedules, Kelly and his Russian colleague, Mikhail Kornienko, spent 340 days in space instead of a full year of 365.25 days.

After Kelly’s mission, NASA health officials said they hope to conduct other one-year missions as they seek to better understand the biological effects of long-duration spaceflight on humans and how the agency can better mitigate bone loss and other adverse effects.

These missions, at least by planning, did not happen. However, largely due to scheduling fluctuations, NASA astronauts have spent significant amounts of time on the International Space Station since Kelly’s groundbreaking flight.

Peggy Whitson spent 289 days in space from late 2016 to 2017 after her scheduled mission was extended by six months due to a realignment of Russian launch schedules. Then, from 2019 to 2020, Christina Koch spent approximately 329 days in space. She broke Whitson’s record for the longest solo spaceflight by a woman and has made four spacewalks. Koch knew an extended mission was a possibility ahead of its 2019 launch on the Soyuz, but the scheduling decision — to free up a seat on the Soyuz for the UAE’s first astronaut, Hazzaa al-Mansoori — was not made until after she was living aboard the space station.

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When Mark Vande He blasted off to the space station in April 2021, he was planning a six-month mission. But again, the Russians modified the schedule in order to use the Soyuz spacecraft to make a movie on the station. So instead of launching a replacement crew on Soyuz MS-19, film director Klim Shipenko and actress Yulia Peresild flew to the station aboard that spacecraft, along with cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov.

With this extended mission, Vande Hei has spent 355 days in space and currently holds the record for the longest duration spaceflight by an American astronaut. However, he did not spend a full year in space.

This may now finally happen, though. On Tuesday, a senior official with NASA’s International Space Station program, Dina Kontella, said during a press briefing that the crew of the damaged Soyuz spacecraft will now “likely” return to Earth in late September.

NASA astronauts Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitry Petlin, and Frank Rubio launched on the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft on September 21, 2022. The mission was scheduled to return this spring, but after a micrometeor strike in December, the spacecraft’s outer cooling loop was damaged. (Russian officials are convinced it was a small meteorite rather than debris in orbit due to the high velocity of the strike and unlikely effect vector.)

As a result, this crew of three He will now return to Earth On a new Soyuz vehicle, MS-23, it will launch and fly autonomously to the station next month. Since the next Soyuz-crewed spacecraft will not be ready to fly until the fall, this will delay the launch of a replacement crew. Currently, NASA’s internal schedule calls for this Soyuz MS-23 rover to return to Earth after September 21, 2023, a source said.

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With the caveat that such schedules are always flexible and emergencies are always possible, this means that Rubio is currently on track to spend more than a full year in space — becoming the first NASA astronaut to do so. It’s an amazing and unexpected feat for a first-time pilot, who only joined NASA in 2017 and is the space agency The first astronaut of Salvadoran origin.

The current record for the longest duration of spaceflight is elusive. Valery Polyakov He spent 438 days on the Mir space station in the 1990s. It is unlikely that this record will be broken for a long time. However, if the return of the Soyuz MS-23 slips a bit, the second spot on this list could be Rubio and his crewmates. This mark is held by cosmonaut Sergei Avdeev, who spent 379 days on Mir in the late 1990s.