This is the first trip to space for Rubio, who will serve as a flight engineer on this mission. A trained family physician, he also has experience as a flight surgeon — meaning he’s got the chops to take care of any medical issues that might arise during their journey.
Rubio, a Florida native, joined NASA in 2017. Prior to his acceptance in the astronaut corps, he graduated from the US Military Academy and earned a doctorate of medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He has more than 600 hours of combat experience in countries including Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Rubio considers Miami his hometown, according to NASA, although he was born in California and his mother lives in El Salvador.
When Rubio and his Russian counterparts make it to the space station, they’ll be tag-teaming with astronauts from the United States, Russia and Europe. The space station, which has continuously had people on board since the year 2000, keeps a rotating base of crew members to ensure the orbiting laboratory is consistently staffed with enough astronauts to maintain the space station’s hardware as well as keep a lengthy log of space- based experiments operating.
The fact that Rubio is traveling to space on a Russian Soyuz capsule is notable.
The history of getting humans to and from the International Space Station began with Russia and the United States each having their own rockets to get their citizens to and from the ISS, which became a symbol of post-Cold War cooperation in the late 20th century and early 2000s. But after 2011, when NASA retired its Space Shuttle program, Russia’s Soyuz capsules were the only option for US astronauts. NASA has been paying up to $90 million for seats aboard a Soyuz spacecraft.
But after years of sharing rides on Russian Soyuz vehicles before SpaceX came onto the scene, one of the big questions that cropped up was whether the United States and Russia would continue to put their astronauts side by side on ISS missions.
Rubio, as many US astronauts had done before him, traveled to Russia to train with Russian cosmonauts ahead of this mission.
CNN’s Kristin Fisher contributed to this story.