American astronaut reacquaints with Earth after a record-breaking 371 days in space

After spending more than a year in space, Frank Rubio now has to get used to that pesky thing called Earth’s gravity.

„The first few days of walking, your legs and lower back hurt,” he said at a news conference Friday at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

„I think there’s a certain amount of pain associated with the fact that your lower back is now supporting half of your weight.”

Rubio returned to Earth two weeks ago after spending 371 days in space, taking off for a routine, six-month mission on a Russian rocket in September of last year.

The Soyuz spacecraft that was supposed to bring them back was docked at the International Space Station to serve as an emergency rescue vehicle. But it developed a coolant leak in December, probably due to the micrometroid.

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So, as a precaution, the Russian space probe Roscosmos sent the spacecraft back to Earth.

It sent another one, empty — meaning Rubio and company would have room to return, but that second ship would have to pick up the crew for the first crew.

„It was kind of torture for me that I was going to be cooped up for a whole year because I love being outside,” Rubio said.

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„But that’s part of the job. It takes a little mental shift and says, 'Hey, this is my world for the next 12 months and I’ve got to deal with it’.”

But the misadventure allowed the son of Salvadoran immigrants to hold the record for the longest time spent in space by an American, breaking the 2022 record set by Mark Vande Hei of 355 consecutive days.

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Russian cosmonaut Valery Poliakov holds the world record at 437 days.

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„For the first few days (back on Earth) you go right or left when you try to walk straight,” he says.

„Your mind is completely clear, but your body isn’t responding the way you expect it to.”

During his stay on the ISS, Rubio first picked up another skill when he grew tomatoes.

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„I think it’s the first tomato in space,” he said.

He put it in „a little bag” and tied it with Velcro, but lost track of it.

Rubio searched for hours to no avail. It may have dried out and been mistaken for garbage.

But „some would say I probably ate,” he jokes.

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