Just In: NASA Astronaut Mark Vande Hei To Return To Earth In Russian Space Capsule


Record-breaking A Russian Soyuz rocket will bring back NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and two Russian cosmonauts from the International Space Station early on March 30th. When he was supposed to return to Earth, tensions had been running high between the United States and Russia after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As of April 2021, Vande Hei has been on board the International Space Station. Originally, he intended to spend no more than six months on board, which is the average time spent by an astronaut on the International Space Station. After a few tourists and a Russian film team arrived aboard the ISS at the end of last year, NASA announced that Vande Hei’s stay had been extended to better accommodate them. After Vande Hei’s extension, he will hold the record for the longest uninterrupted stay in space by an American: 355 days.

Even though Vande Hei is returning to Earth in a separate Soyuz spacecraft, the intention has always been to use the Russian Soyuz. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started in February, several people began to worry whether Vande Hei’s journey might be affected. The NASA-Roscososov partnership, which was announced before the invasion began, was credited with keeping the International Space Station’s usual activities running well. In addition, NASA said that Vande Hei will return to Earth on a Soyuz as scheduled.

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After RIA Novosti’s Telegram video showed Vande Hei on the ISS and the two Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, the two with whom he was meant to descend to Earth on March 5, things took a turn. The film was manipulated to give the impression that Vande Hei would be abandoned in space by the cosmonauts. The Russian segment of the ISS was subsequently seen to be disconnecting from the rest of the ISS in the footage.

While Russia’s RIA Novosti labeled the film as a parody, several media agencies took the portrayals literally, and interpreted the clip as Russia’s threat to send Vande Hei into space. In addition, Roscosmos CEO Dmitry Rogozin also posted the video on his Telegram account. At one point, Rogozin implied that if Russia left the program, the International Space Station (ISS) would come crashing down on the planet, a warning he has made several times since the invasion started.

Russia refuted reports that Vande Hei had been abandoned on the ISS after Good Morning America and Fox News talked about it. According to TASS, another Russian official news agency, “the US astronaut slated to return to Earth shortly will do so as planned on board Russia’s space capsule spacecraft on March 30.”

Even though we’re aware of what’s happening, we’re able to go on with our work to keep things running smoothly.

On March 14th, NASA held a news conference to stress that business will go on as usual. “In actuality, Mark Vande Hei and Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov will be returning home on March 30th. During a press conference, NASA’s ISS program manager Joel Montalbano was questioned about the video’s alleged danger to the space station. “I’m not sure what more I can say about it. Our Russian colleagues have confirmed this for us.” At the same time, NASA Administrator Montalbano emphasized that NASA and Roscosmos are dependent on one another in order to maintain operation of the International Space Station (ISS). The events taking on around us aren’t affecting us in any way…. Even if we’re aware of what’s going on, our duty is to keep things running smoothly,” he stated.

In the morning, Vande Hei and his two cosmonaut crewmates will bid goodbye to the ISS’s remaining crew members before stepping inside the Soyuz spacecraft and shutting the hatch. The Soyuz will next separate from the ISS at 3:21 a.m. ET and begin separating from the ISS over the next several hours. As soon as 7:28AM ET, the capsule will begin its descent into Earth’s atmosphere using parachutes, placing it on track to crash in Kazakhstan. In the same way that past Soyuz astronauts have returned to Earth, Vande Hei will use a NASA Gulfstream aircraft to fly back to Houston, Texas. A live feed of each important milestone will begin at 11:30 p.m. ET today, NASA has said.

Ahead of Soyuz’s planned return, the ISS crew displayed their solidarity in the face of continued concerns about how geopolitical ties may seep into space Shkaplerov was replaced by Marshburn as commander of the space station on Tuesday, and Marshburn was presented with a symbolic key as a token of gratitude. During the event, Shkaplerov made reference to the ongoing conflicts on the planet. He remarked, “I’m happy to have been in charge of this fantastic group.” “Earth has its share of difficulties.” “We are one crew in space.”