NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returns to Earth in Russian space capsule

All three crew members were rescued safely from the spacecraft. Vande Hei will return to Houston, Texas, after going to Karaganda by helicopter and boarding a NASA plane to return to the United States.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returns to Earth in Russian space capsule

Original Story: A world-record-breaking achievement NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is scheduled to return to Earth from the International Space Station on the morning of March 30th, riding on a Russian Soyuz rocket with two Russian cosmonauts. Vande Hei will be the first American to return to Earth from the International Space Station. His planned return to the planet has been a topic of contention for the last several weeks, as relations between the United States and Russia have deteriorated considerably as a result of the latter’s invasion of Ukraine.

Vande Hei has been at the International Space Station since April 2021, when he was launched from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket. Originally, he was only scheduled to be on board for six months, which is the typical length of stay for most astronauts on the International Space Station. However, NASA revealed in September that Vande Hei’s stay on the ISS had been extended in order to better accommodate a small group of visiting tourists as well as a Russian film team that Russia dispatched to the ISS at the end of last year. Vande Hei will now hold the record for the longest continuous stay in space by an American, with 355 days, thanks to the extension of his mission.

THE PLAN HAS ALWAYS BEEN FOR VANDE HEI TO RETURN IN A RUSSIAN SOYUZ

Vande Hei’s return to Earth has always been planned to take place aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, albeit he will be returning in a different capsule from the one that took him into space. However, when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, many people started to worry what this would imply for Vande Hei’s upcoming journey. In the early days of the Russian invasion, NASA informed the public that it and Russia’s state-owned space business, Roscosmos, were continuing their collaborative efforts to keep the space station operating at its regular level of operations. And NASA confirmed that Vande Hei was still on his way home in a Soyuz spacecraft as scheduled.

But on March 5th, RIA Novosti, a Russian official news channel, posted a video on Telegram that includes footage of Vande Hei on the International Space Station, as well as footage of Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, the two Russian cosmonauts with whom he’s meant to return to Earth. The footage was produced in such a manner that it seemed as if the cosmonauts were planning to abandon Vande Hei in space. The video subsequently showed the complete Russian segment of the space station disconnecting from the remainder of the International Space Station (ISS).