Eleven days before Christmas last year, a micrometeoroid struck a Soyuz spacecraft docked to the International Space Station. This ruptured the vehicle's cooling system, creating a dramatic spray of coolant for hours into space before there was none left.
Prior to this accidental strike, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio had been planning to come home by around spring break of 2023 to see his wife, Deborah, and four children. For his debut spaceflight, six months in space was enough for the former helicopter pilot and flight surgeon.
But eventually Russian and US engineers determined that the Soyuz spacecraft that he and two Russian crewmates—cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin—had flown to the space station may not be safe for the return journey home. The crew compartment was likely to overheat. So that damaged vehicle was flown home without anyone on board, and a replacement Soyuz flew autonomously to the station.
That vehicle, Soyuz MS-23, was to have carried three crew members to the station. But since it was empty, it fell to Rubio and the two Russians to complete the mission that the original occupants of Soyuz MS-23 were to have fulfilled. Accordingly, Rubio was told he would have to fly not one, but two six-month increments.