NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, a son of Salvadoran migrants, spent 371 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS), making him the American who has spent the most extended period in space. Now back on Earth for two weeks, Rubio still experiences discomfort while walking.
Rubio, a 47-year-old physician and pilot, adapted to microgravity during his time in space. Although he enjoyed the experience, medical specialists note that in low Earth orbit, where the ISS is located, gravity is nearly absent, affecting bones and muscles.
“Walking is a bit painful during the first few days, especially the soles of my feet and the lower back. I believe there is a certain level of pain that comes with the fact that your lower back now supports half of your weight,” Rubio explained during a press briefing at Houston’s Johnson Space Center.
He described the initial challenges of readjusting to Earth’s gravity, including feeling off-balance while walking. Despite the discomfort, Rubio mentioned that his vertigo has subsided, allowing him to drive without disorientation. However, his feet still ache due to the sudden pressure of standing and walking.
Rubio’s space mission faced an unexpected extension due to a coolant leak in the Soyuz spacecraft that was meant to bring him back in December. Consequently, he broke the previous American record set by astronaut Mark Vande Hei for consecutive days in space. Rubio’s resilience and determination during his extended stay highlight the mental and physical challenges faced by astronauts, emphasizing the importance of their support systems, including family, in coping with such demanding missions.