Lt. Col. (Dr.) Frank Rubio has made it to space – and into the history books. On Wednesday (September 21), the active-duty Army physician and astronaut, became NASA’s first Salvadoran-American to visit the cosmos.
Rubio launched on Expedition 68 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, aboard a Soyuz MS-22 rocket. Along with him for the mission were cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin from the Russian Federation space program Roscosmos.
NASA selected Rubio as one of 10 people from a pool of 18,300 applicants for the 2017 Astronaut Candidate class. Prior to being chosen, he served as a battalion surgeon at Fort Carson, Colorado.
“Lt. Col. Rubio represents a ‘human element’ to Army space capabilities, like so many of our SMDC Soldiers stationed around the world,” said Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, commanding general of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command. “He is a great representative of the Army’s role in space. To have that human presence in Earth orbit is only a small part of Army space capabilities. Our Army astronaut detachment, though small in number, has an out-sized strategic impact as they represent Soldiers and the Army on the ultimate high ground, either around the globe or orbiting above it.”
The mission on the International Space Station is scheduled for six months. On Wednesday, the crew made two orbits around the Earth and then docked their spacecraft at the space station to begin their mission on the orbital complex, which will include scientific and technical experiments, maintenance duties, spacewalks, and environmental and observation responsibilities. They are set to return to Earth in March 2023.
“Army astronauts are more than astronauts,” Karbler said. “They represent the Army, serving as ambassadors to the public. NASA has long recognized the skills and leadership qualities of Army astronauts. I know Lt. Col. Rubio will make us proud and we look forward to all he will accomplish.”