After spending nearly a year in the International Space Station (ISS), record-breaking astronaut Frank Rubio said he would have declined his space mission had he known he would be in orbit so long.
“If they had asked me upfront before you start training, because you do train for a year or two years before your mission, I probably would’ve declined,” Rubio told reporters from the ISS during a NASA press conference. “That’s only because of family things that were going on this past year.”
“Had I known that I had to miss those very important events, I just would have had to say ‘thank you, but no thank you,’” he added.
Rubio recently broke the record for the longest space mission for a U.S. astronaut, beating Mark Vande Hei’s record of 355 days in orbit. He is scheduled to land on Sept. 27, at which point he will have spent 371 days in space, though that falls short of Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov’s 437 days.
Rubio launched from Kazakhstan aboard a Russian-operated Soyuz MS-22 with a Russian crew on Sept. 21, 2022. The mission was only supposed to last six months, but the ship that was supposed to bring the crew home had a coolant leak and was deemed unsafe.
Roscosmos then needed additional time to prepare another Soyuz vehicle. It ultimately docked at the ISS on Friday, carrying two more Russian cosmonauts and another American astronaut.
“When it finally became real that it was gonna require me to stay for a full year … it was difficult,” the Miami native said. Learning that his stay aboard the station was being extended was the hardest part of his mission, he added.
The astronaut’s wife and kids’ “resilience and strength” carried him through the entire mission, he told reporters.
The astronaut’s record-breaking journey was also his first as an astronaut. He previously served as a doctor and a Blackhawk helicopter pilot with over 600 hours of combat experience in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia, according to NASA.
“Having the International Space Station going for 23 years requires a lot of individual and family sacrifices,” Rubio said. “Ultimately, that’s our job. We have to get the mission done.”
However, spending time with his Russian crew mates who have been through this entire event with him “has been the most special part,” he added.
Though the tensions between the U.S. and Russia are strained over the ongoing war in Ukraine, the two countries’ space agencies, NASA and Roscomos, have continued working together to launch astronauts into orbit and maintain the ISS. The relationship hit turbulence in April 2022 when Dmitry Rogozin, then-director general of Roscosmos, threatened to end Russia’s ISS cooperation unless economic sanctions imposed on Russia over the war were lifted.
Russian President Vladimir Putin released Rogozin from his position in June 2022, according to the Kremlin.
Yuri Borisov, the current chief of Roscosmos, the next month said Russia will fulfill its partner commitments before leaving the ISS “after 2024.” However, the details regarding how the country will do this remain under discussion.