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NASA astronaut Frank Rubio's body changed after spending one year in space

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio's body changed after spending one year in space

The astronaut holds a record because he was up there for so long

On 27 September 2023, Frank Rubio returned to Earth after a world record length of time up in space.

The NASA astronaut now holds the American record for the longest amount of time up there with a whopping 371 days.

And after over a year in space, there were a number of changes to the flight surgeon’s body.

When the 48-year-old landed in Kazakhstan, he said that he was to be assessed by a medical team and he’d need a fair bit of time to re-adjust to Earth’s gravity which sounds pretty reasonable.

Rubio was actually meant to be on a six month mission but it got extended by an extra six months and it made him living proof of what the effect of living gravity-free for such a long time looks like.

Us mere Earth-bound muggles might not even be able to comprehend what this could be like.

Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images

But the lack of gravity causes a decrease in muscle mass, and even bone loss, within just the first couple months of a mission – let alone Rubio’s year.

At the time of Rubio's landing, Dr Jennifer Fogarty, chief scientific officer at Baylor College of Medicine's Translational Research Institute for Space Health, told ABC News: "How do you coordinate movement like walking, which you haven't done for a long period of time, and then the idea of balance?

"When you put those two together, it can kind of create a little bit of a precarious situation and something that's very well-monitored with the crew members when they land on Earth."

The astronauts were carried to a medical tent after landing.
Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images

The expert also added that the longer the time in space goes on for, the longer the time it takes for the astronaut to reacclimatise when they get back.

Plus when living in space, an astronaut’s blood flow can be heavily affected.

This can cause symptoms including blurred vision or eye swelling due to something known as Spaceflight Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome.

According to the co-director of the Center for Aerospace Physiology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Dr Michael Decker, our veins have handy-dandy valves in them to make sure ‘blood doesn’t flow backwards when we stand up’.

And being enclosed in a weightless room for a long period of time will certainly impact the body's blood flow.

He added: "Some of this increased intracranial pressure can actually impact the eye and lead to visual impairment.

"Sometimes when astronauts land, that visual impairment does not necessarily resolve."

He now holds a world record.

Rubio’s mental and physical health will have been assessed while he was in space and in January, he explained that he’d spent the past four months ‘reincorporating [himself] back into Earth’.

“You adapt incredibly quickly to being in space, but then unfortunately, the readaptation process back to earth can sometimes be a little bit longer and more difficult." he told TIME.

"And that's just, I think, because the forces of gravity and the forces at play here on Earth tend to have a stronger effect on your body. So it takes two to three months to get yourself back to where you were pre-flight. I'm feeling pretty normal."

He added: “At this point, I feel like I'm back to 90-95%. So lots of exercise, lots of testing, and science."

Featured Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images

Topics: Space, NASA, Health, Science, US News