As if NASA was celebrating Latinx Heritage Month in its own way, an agency astronaut named Dr. Frank Rubio just became the first Salvadoran American to go into space.
The spacecraft officially took off on the morning of September 21, and Rubio will spend six months in space alongside Russian cosmonauts Dmitri Petelin and Sergey Prokopyev, News Channel Nebraska reports.
During his first trip into space, Rubio will work as a flight engineer on a mission called Expedition 68 aboard a spacecraft called the Soyuz MS-22, reports UPI News. Rubio’s participation in the mission follows his career as a general practitioner as well as a flight surgeon for the US Army.
Rubio earned his doctorate in medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences after graduating from the US Military Academy. He’s also clocked up hundreds of combat hours and served as an Army pilot, but despite his impressive resume, he almost didn’t make it into space.
The mission was almost canceled due to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine that began in February 2022. The conflict between the United States and Russia peaked when President Biden began imposing severe economic sanctions on the country.
“I think it’s important that human spaceflight and exploration, something both agencies are incredibly passionate about, remain a form of diplomacy and partnership during moments of potential tension elsewhere, where we find common ground and continue to do great things.” together,” Rubio told Space News.
He further assured the source that he was not concerned about the status of the mission and that he was confident it would happen.
“At the same time, there was a certainty that if it did happen, we would be ready, and if it didn’t happen, other possibilities would arise.” Rubio was right in his optimism, as Exploration 68 is already making its way to the ISS from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
According to ABC 7, Salvadorans make up the second most popular Latino group in California, where Rubio was born, although he grew up in Florida.
As Latinx Heritage Month continues, Latinos around the world are looking for people like Rubio to look up to. Rubio was one of 10 people selected from more than 18,000 applicants and will help inspire a generation of Latinos pursuing a career in aviation.
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