An astronaut and cosmonaut crew who have been on the International Space Station for a year will soon return to Earth after Russia launches their replacements on Friday.
NASA Astronaut Loral O'Hara and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub are set to launch on the Russian Soyuz MS-24 spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday at 8:44 p.m. local time (11:44 a.m. ET). This will be the first spaceflight for O'Hara and Chub and the fifth for Kononenko.
The launch will mark the first crewed mission from Russia since September 2022, when another Soyuz spacecraft launched NASA Astronaut Frank Rubio and Roscosmos cosmonauts Dmitri Petelin and Sergey Prokopyev to the International Space Station.
O'Hara, Kononenko and Chub are set to arrive at the space station on Friday before 3 p.m., with the ISS hatch opening around 5 p.m.
After the Soyuz MS-23 began leaking coolant in December, Rubio and his crewmates were left without a ride back to Earth for a short time, which has extended their mission to a full year. Another Soyuz arrived in February as a replacement spacecraft and will be the ride home for Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin in late September.
Record-breaking astronaut prepares to return to Earth
Humans have lived continuously on the International Space Station for more than two decades. Most astronaut missions are around six months. Rubio recently marked his 356th day in space, the longest spaceflight for any American. According to NASA, when he returns to Earth, Rubio will have spent 371 days in space.
"I've been in space with 25 other people, and by the time Loral and her crew get here it will be 28, which is pretty phenomenal," Rubio told Vande Hei when asked about his favorite part of spaceflight. "Every one of them have just been great crewmates, very special people, and they hold special places now because I've been able to share this experience with them."
Rubio also completed three spacewalks and supported eight over the past year. The record space flyer said supporting a spacewalk was more nerve-racking than stepping outside the airlock himself.
"You feel like your friends' lives are in your hands. Again, you have an incredible team that's backing you up, but you just have a much greater sense of responsibility when you're putting people out the door," Rubio said.
Rubio said the most challenging part of his year-long mission is missing his family on Earth.