NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned to Earth on Wednesday after a record-breaking 355-day stay at the International Space Station (ISS).
His stay at the ISS marks the longest time an astronaut from the US has remained in space.
Vande Hei, 55, returned to Earth with two Russian cosmonauts, Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, who also had been staying at the ISS for the past year.
The arrival of the capsule carrying the three astronauts was live streamed.
The three astronauts landed in Kazakhstan in a Russian Soyuz capsule, with a team of doctors and other support staff waiting for them on the ground.
Mark Vande Hei breaks record for longest stay in space by American astronaut
Vande Hei will be transported to Houston, Texas, where NASA is based, and Shkaplerov and Dubrov will travel to Star City, Russia home to the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
The historic landing comes at a time when tensions between Russia and the US are particularly heightened in wake of the war in Ukraine.
Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin previously posted negative videos and statements on his social media accounts directed at the US after the country condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
One of the videos Rogozin posted seemed to state that Russian astronauts would abandon Vande Hei in space.
Although there may be tensions between their countries on earth, astronauts in space get along harmoniously.
“People have problems on Earth. On orbit, we are one crew, and I think ISS is like a symbol of the friendship, cooperation… our flexible future of exploration of space. Thank you very much, my crew members. You are like my space brothers and space sister,” Shkaplerov stated during a ceremony in which he handed over command of the ISS to NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn.
NASA astronaut Vande Hei’s 355-day journey through space, which consisted of 5,680 orbits around the Earth, broke Mark Kelly’s record of 340 days for the longest spaceflight by an American.
Vande Hei will undergo extensive testing and analysis to help doctors and researchers understand how long-term stays in space impact the human body. Such findings could help NASA prepare astronauts for longer missions in the future, such as trips to the Moon and even Mars.
“Mark’s mission is not only record-breaking, but also paving the way for future human explorers on the Moon, Mars, and beyond…Our astronauts make incredible sacrifices in the name of science, exploration, and cutting-edge technology development, not least among them time away from loved ones. NASA and the nation are proud to welcome Mark home and grateful for his incredible contributions throughout his year-long stay on the International Space Station,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson expressed in a statement.
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