Two Russians, American land back on Earth after ISS mission: Moscow

MOSCOW-Two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut landed back on Earth Wednesday after spending a year at the International Space Station (ISS), Russia’s Roscosmos space agency said. “Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergei Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Francisco Rubio, who spent a year on board the ISS landed near the city of Jezkazgan in Kazakhstan,” Roscosmos said. It said the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft carrying them reached Earth at 1117 GMT in a landing that took place in “normal mode.” Roscosmos said Prokopyev and Petelin spent “370 days, 21 hours and 22 minutes in space -- the longest flight under the iSS program.” NASA also confirmed the landing. “Frank Rubio is back on Earth after 371 days,” it said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The single longest spaceflight for any of our NASA astronauts comes to a close.” The three men had travelled on a Russian Soyuz to the ISS last year, in a mission that was meant to last only six months. But the Soyuz suffered a leak probably due to impact from a tiny meteorite, so Moscow sent another rocket with no crew onboard. The Russians and American then carried out the mission of the crew that was due to replace them. The trio spent a year on the ISS -- a rare venue for cooperation between the US and Russia -- as tensions between Washington and Moscow intensified over the conflict in Ukraine. He will first fly to Karaganda, which lies about 330 miles (530 kilometers) northeast of Dzhezkazgan, before boarding a flight to Houston. All told, Rubio and his crewmates traveled 157.4 million miles (253.3 million kilometers) and completed 5,963 orbits of the Earth, according to NASA. Rubio bested the previous record for the longest stay in space by a US astronaut — 355 days — which was set by NASA’s Mark Vande Hei in 2022. The late Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov, who logged 437 continuous days in orbit aboard Russia’s Mir space station between January 1994 and March 1995 , holds the world record for the longest stay in space. Rubio traveled to the space station on a Russian spacecraft as part of ride-sharing agreement between NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, that was hashed out in the summer of 2022 amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The seat-swap arrangement was an effort to continue longstanding policies that have sought to ensure access to the space station for both the United States and Russia — the primary operators of the outpost — should either country experience spacecraft issues that left their astronauts grounded. Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin launched aboard the Soyuz MS-22 vehicle on September 21, 2022, and safely arrived at the ISS three hours later, leaving the Soyuz capsule docked to the space station’s exterior as they went to work aboard the orbiting laboratory. In an interview with reporters last week, Rubio thanked his family, noting their “resilience and strength has carried me through this entire mission.” Less than three months into its crew’s mission, the Soyuz MS-22 began spewing coolant.

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