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Frank Rubio’s flight to ISS will exceed a year, setting a new American record

Frank Rubio
Frank Rubio

Initially, Frank Rubio’s first flight in space was intended to be a standard six month mission on ISS. Launched on September 21, 2022 on a Soyuz-2 rocket inside a Soyuz capsule, the plan was for him and his two crewmates to return in March, 2023.

Then their Soyuz capsule developed a leak in its coolant system in December 2022. Not knowing if it was safe to use this capsule with humans inside, a replacement unmanned Soyuz capsule was launched by the Russians to ISS in February 2023, with the leaking Soyuz capsule brought back unmanned earlier this week.

The Russians however decided that this new capsule, designed for a six month mission, would stay in orbit for six months, so that it would be used to its planned capability. This decision also hinged on the lack of a new crew arriving on this new capsule. If it brought Rubio and his crew home earlier, ISS would be short three crew members for at least several months.

The planned return date, September 27, 2023, now means that Rubio’s mission will be at least 371 days long, making him the first American to fly a full year in space. Previously NASA falsely touted Scott Kelly’s 340-day mission as a year-long mission, when it never was. Later, Mark Vande Hei’s mission, also launched on a Soyuz, was extended to 355 days, still just short of a year, because the Russians wanted to send a film crew to ISS and return them on the capsule which Vande Hei was intended to come home on.

Whether Rubio truly does spend a year in space however remains uncertain. Two different Russian spacecraft — the Soyuz and a Progress freighter — have developed this coolant leak in the past three months. If this problem is a systemic manufacturing error, which Russia is now investigating, the decision might be to return the new capsule sooner than planned, out of fear it will develop its own leak. We shall likely find out sometime in the next three months.

If Rubio does end up in space for a full year, however, it will likely be a dream come true, having become an astronaut in 2017 but waiting six years for his first flight.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. All editions can also be purchased direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Dick Eagleson

    Rubio now joins the crew of the AX-1 mission in having his planned time in space doubled by circumstances beyond his control. Nice for them and perhaps nice for Rubio too, but it would be nicer all around, in my opinion, if, like Vande Hei’s, Rubio’s U.S. space endurance record were a consequence of U.S. deliberation rather than Russian unilateralism and/or dereliction.

  • Ray Van Dune

    I suggest NASA ask SpaceX to put an additional seat into the next Dragon, and include it as a standard addition for contingency situations.

  • pzatchok

    He could always come back on a Dragon.

  • geoffc

    @Ray – the way the seats are configured, 4 across, no real way to add a 5th except below, which they stopped doing (5-6-7) due to changes in the seat orientation during landing…

    But a clever idea regardless. Use 4, have backup for american. Russians, your pot, you stew in it.

  • pzatchok

    The original Dragon design called for a 3 over 4 configuration but NASA said the extra weight could not be carried by the parachutes and or they were afraid the top three would fall on the lower four.

    Then they turned around and used the saved weight to add more cargo. So that weight to chute problem was junk.

    ‘And since the four over cargo they used now has never collapsed the seats down on landing that idea was junk also.

    Let Space X go back to the original 3 over 4 and make the seats removable in space. Keep the spares in the Bigalow module.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Or design an emergency seat that can be anchored in the cargo area below the four-abreast seats, and carry either an extra human or cargo. There is probably some cargo on most flights up that requires extra suspension anyway.

    Of course, once a seat has been ferried up to the ISS, it could just be stored there, assuming it is easy to install if needed.

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