If NASA had requested astronaut Frank Rubio, effectively prematurely, if he want to spend a full 12 months aboard the Worldwide Area Station, he seemingly would have turned it down. However that’s the way it turned out anyway, when bother along with his crew’s Soyuz ferry ship pressured them to prolonged a six-month keep to 12.
“If that they had requested me up entrance earlier than coaching, since you do practice for a 12 months or two years in your mission, I in all probability would have declined,” Rubio instructed reporters Tuesday, eight days earlier than he and his two Soyuz crewmates plan to return to Earth on Sept. 27. “It could have harm, however I might have declined.
“And that’s solely due to household, issues that had been happening this previous 12 months,” he mentioned of his spouse and 4 kids. “Had I identified that I might have needed to miss these essential occasions, I simply would have needed to say thanks, however no thanks.”
However as soon as coaching started for what was speculated to be a six-month flight he was dedicated, and he took the mission extension in stride “as a result of finally that’s our job.”
“Now we have to get the mission executed,” he mentioned. “Having the Worldwide Area Station (completely occupied) for 23 years requires quite a lot of particular person and household sacrifices. However typically that’s what it’s important to do.”
That’s nothing new for Rubio, a West Level graduate, UH-60 Blackhawk fight helicopter pilot, flight surgeon and household doctor. Among the many household milestones he missed throughout his prolonged mission: a daughter completed her first 12 months on the U.S. Naval Academy and a son started his freshman 12 months at West Level.
Rubio and his two Soyuz crewmates — Sergei Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin — had been launched to the area station final Sept. 21 aboard the Soyuz MS-22/68S ferry ship, kicking off a deliberate half-year keep, the usual length for long-duration station crews.
However their docked and dormant Soyuz was hit by a presumed micrometeoroid final December, rupturing a crucial coolant line. After a number of weeks of research, Russian engineers determined the most secure plan of action was to launch a substitute spacecraft, forcing Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio to prolonged their keep an extra six months.
“When it lastly grew to become actual that it was going to require me to remain for a full 12 months (it) was tough, though that call actually took a few months,” Rubio mentioned. “And so primarily, we knew the scenario, we had been coping with it, we had been arising with choices. And so though it was tough, actually … my household and I had come to phrases with it.”
Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin plan to strap into their substitute Soyuz MS-23/69S spacecraft and undock from the area station subsequent Wednesday. If all goes effectively, they’ll land on the steppe of Kazakhstan round 7:14 a.m. EDT (5:14 p.m. native time) to shut out a 371-day mission, the third longest flight in area historical past and the longest ever for a U.S. astronaut.
After preliminary medical checks and cellphone calls house to household, Rubio will board a NASA jet for the flight again to Houston whereas Prokopyev and Petelin head for Star Metropolis close to Moscow.
Requested what he seemed ahead to essentially the most as soon as again on Earth, Rubio mentioned “hugging my spouse and children goes to be paramount. And I’ll in all probability give attention to that for the primary couple days.”
“We’re blessed sufficient to have sort of a quiet yard,” he added. “And I feel simply going out within the yard and having fun with the bushes and the silence. Up right here, we sort of have the fixed hum of equipment. … So I’m trying ahead to only being outdoors and having fun with the peace and quiet.”
As for re-adapting to gravity after a 12 months in weightlessness, Rubio mentioned it seemingly will take a number of months to get his land legs again and the conventional sense of steadiness his vestibular system gives. However as a result of that is his first spaceflight, and a yearlong keep at that, he’s probably not positive what to anticipate.
“While you return to Earth … that fixed drive of gravity actually impacts quite a lot of us fairly strongly, and you could find yourself spending quite a lot of time being sick,” he mentioned. “So your vestibular system might be essentially the most affected.
“After which after that, it’s a few months to regain your energy. Our trainers do an amazing job of retaining us in form up right here. However the actuality is we’re not standing, we’re not strolling, we’re not bearing our personal weight. And so it simply takes a while to get your bones and your muscle tissue used to doing that persistently again on Earth. It’ll be wherever from two to 6 months earlier than I primarily say that I really feel regular.”