Army Astronaut Breaks Spaceflight Record

Army Astronaut Breaks Spaceflight Record

Army Astronaut Lt. Col. (Dr.) Frank Rubio completes a spacewalk tethered to the International Space Station’s starboard truss structure, Nov. 15, 2022. (NASA photo)
Photo by: NASA

When NASA astronaut Lt. Col. Frank Rubio returns to Earth Sept. 27, he will have completed a record-breaking mission.

By the end of his mission, Rubio will have spent 371 days in low-Earth orbit, the longest single spaceflight by an American. Rubio’s time in orbit surpasses the previous record by 16 days, according to a NASA news release. He launched Sept. 21, 2022, for his first trip to space.

A 1998 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, Rubio is a family physician and flight surgeon. He also has served as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot, deploying to Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq and flying more than 600 hours in combat and imminent danger, according to his NASA biography. Rubio, who was serving with the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colorado, was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. 

The “unforgiving environment” in space meant that Rubio had to remain steady through difficult and good times. “One thing that I’ve tried to do … is just to focus on the job and on the mission and remain steady because, ultimately, every day you just have to show up and do the work,” he said Sept. 19 in an interview from the International Space Station. “Up here, in this very unforgiving environment, we have to do things right.” 

Once he returns to Earth, Rubio is most excited for quality time with his wife and children. He’s also looking forward to some quiet after the constant noise aboard the International Space Station. “We're blessed enough to have kind of a quiet backyard, and I think just going out in the yard and enjoying the trees and the silence,” he said.

Rubio was originally supposed to spend six months in space, but his mission was extended. “Once you commit to the mission, once you’re part of the training, ... the mission can count on you,” he said. “Having the International Space Station going for 23 years requires a lot of individual and family sacrifices, but sometimes that’s what you have to do.” 

Rubio hopes that his story and service will inspire the nation and younger generations. 

“I think the importance of role modeling is showing effort, attitude, and when you mess up, admitting your mistakes and showing that resilience to … get better after that,” he said. “Go out there, make your own story, forge your own path and make your own contribution to our community.”