This will be the first trip to space for Rubio, who will serve as a flight engineer in this mission. A trained family physician, he also has experience as a flight surgeon – meaning he has the chops to take care of any medical problems that may arise during travel.
Rubio, a native of Florida, joined NASA in 2017. Prior to his acceptance into the Astronaut Corps, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the US Military Academy and a doctorate from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He has over 600 hours of combat experience in countries including Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. According to NASA, Rubio considers Miami his hometown, although he was born in California and his mother lives in El Salvador.
When Rubio and his Russian counterpart arrive at the space station, they will be tag-teaming with astronauts from the United States, Russia, and Europe. The space station, which has had people aboard continuously since the year 2000, maintains a rotating base of crew members to ensure that the space station’s hardware is maintained as well as to keep a long log of space-based orbitals. The laboratory is constantly stocked with enough astronauts. Experiments underway.
The fact that Rubio is traveling to space on a Russian Soyuz capsule is remarkable.
The history of transporting humans to and from the International Space Station began with Russia and the United States, each of which had their own rockets to bring their citizens to and from the ISS, which was in the late 20th century during the Cold War. The latter became a symbol of cooperation. In the early 2000s. But after 2011, when NASA shut down its space shuttle program, Russia’s Soyuz capsules were the only option for American astronauts. NASA is paying up to $90 million for seats aboard the Soyuz spacecraft.
But after years of sharing rides on Russian Soyuz vehicles before SpaceX arrived, a big question was whether the United States and Russia would continue to put their astronauts side-by-side on ISS missions.
Rubio, as many American astronauts before him, went to Russia to train with Russian cosmonauts prior to this mission.
CNN’s Kristen Fisher contributed to this story.