NASA astronaut Frank Rubio breaks longest U.S. spaceflight record

(NewsNation) — NASA astronaut Frank Rubio officially broke the record for the longest single spaceflight by an American this week.

On Monday, Rubio surpassed fellow astronaut and previous record-holder Mark Vande Hei’s 355 days at the International Space Station. Rubio initially arrived at the outpost last September with two Russians for a routine six-month journey — but a coolant leak their Soyuz capsule developed while parked at the space station doubled their trip.

The three are set to return to Earth on Sept. 27 in a replacement capsule, at which time Rubio will have spent 371 days in space.

“Frank Rubio’s journey in space embodies the essence of exploration,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said on Twitter. “As he breaks records as the longest-serving U.S. astronaut in space, he also paves the way for future generations of astronauts. Your dedication is truly out of this world, Frank!”

This isn’t the first barrier Rubio has broken through — he is also the first NASA astronaut of Salvadoran origin to go to space.

According to a biography on NASA’s website, Rubio was chosen by the agency to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class and reported for duty in August of that year. A Florida native, Rubio graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1998 with a doctorate of medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in 2010. Before that, he was a UG-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot and logged more than 1,100 hours of flying, including over 600 hours of “combat and imminent danger” during deployments in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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