Three astronauts landed back on Earth after spending one whole year in space, Nasa’s Frank Rubio sets a space record.

A NASA astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts returned to Earth on Wednesday after being stuck in space for just over a year. American Frank Rubio set the record for the longest American space flight – a result of a longer stay.

Russian, North American astronauts return to earth

The group’s Soyuz spacecraft, which was rushed up as a replacement after their first vehicle was damaged by space debris and lost all of its coolant while connected to the International Space Station, brought them to a remote region of Kazakhstan.

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It took 371 days to complete what was supposed to be a 180-day operation. Rubio outlasted Mark Vande Hei, who had held NASA’s record for the longest solo spaceflight, by more than two weeks.

The world record, which Russia set in the middle of the 1990s, is 437 days.

International Space Station Crew-6 mission reenters Earth. (NASA)

The Soyuz capsule that brought back Rubio and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin was a replacement capsule launched in February. Russian engineers suspect that space debris punctured the cooler of their original capsule, which should have lasted six months, in the middle of last year.

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Engineers were concerned that without cooling the electronics of the capsule and all the passengers could overheat to dangerous levels, so that the ship returned empty. Only this month there was no launch of another Soyuz crew.

Their replacements finally arrived almost two weeks ago. “Nobody deserves to go home to their family more than you,” the space station’s new commander, Andreas Mogensen, of Denmark, said earlier this week. During the landing, Prokopyev told air traffic controllers that all three were fine.

They experienced more than four times the force of gravity as their capsules passed through the atmosphere and hit the rugged steppes of Kazakhstan, ending up on their sides. The helicopters moved towards the astronauts along with the rescue workers. “It’s good to be home,” Rubio said after being removed from the capsule.

Rubio, 47, an Army medic and helicopter pilot, said at a news conference last week that he would never have agreed to spend a year in space if asked in the first place. He missed important family milestones, including the oldest of his four children completing his first year at the United States Naval Academy and another on his way to West Point.

Rubio said the psychological aspect of being in space for so long is more difficult than he expected. He may hold that record for a while. So far, NASA has no plans for annual missions. It was the first space flight for Rubio and Petelin, a 40-year-old engineer. The 48-year-old engineer and pilot Prokopjev has now made two long stops. They have logged 157 million miles (253 million kilometers) and made almost 6,000 laps around the world since taking off from Kazakhstan last September.

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