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Mark Vande Hei returns to Earth with Russian cosmonauts

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned to Earth with two Russian cosmonauts on Wednesday after spending a US-record 355 days in space.

Vande Hei, 55, and cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov departed the International Space Station early Wednesday and landed hours later in a remote area of ​​Kazakhstan, NASA officials said.

The trio landed in a Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft amid escalating tensions between the US and Russia over the war in Ukraine, but NASA confirmed earlier this month that the retired US Army colonel would be able to Russian capsule to drive back to earth.

“It’s beautiful out here,” said Vande Hei after being the last to exit the spaceship.

A team of NASA doctors and staff were on site planning to bring Vande Hei to Houston after his year in space. He and Dubrov launched last April, and Shkaplerov joined them on the ISS in October.

Vande Hei’s 355 days is the longest space flight by a US astronaut, beating the previous mark of 340 set by Mark Kelly in 2013. Dubrov also spent 355 days aboard the ISS.

Mark VandeHei.
Astronaut Mark Vande Hei spent a US record 355 days in space.
Bill Ingall/NASA via AP
Expedition 66 crew members Mark Vande Hei of NASA, left, cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov, center, and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos.
Expedition 66 crew members, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei (from left) and cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov.
Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP
The Soyuz MS-19 space capsule.
The trio landed in a Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft amid escalating tensions between the US and Russia over the war in Ukraine.
Bill Ingalls/NASA/AFP via Getty Images
Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft.
The Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft landed in a remote area near the city of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.
Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP

Vande Hei said he avoided the subject of Russia and Ukraine even before the February 24 invasion when he was in space with his colleagues.

“I’m not sure we really want to go there,” he said.

For his part, Shkaplerov said Tuesday the trio had no problems, Space.com reported.

People rush to the landed space capsule.
A team of NASA doctors and staff were on site planning to bring Mark Vande Hei to Houston after his year in space.
Roscosmos/EPA
Mark VandeHei.
“It’s beautiful out here,” said Mark Vande Hei after being the last to exit the spaceship.
Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP
Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov.
“In orbit we are a crew,” Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov said of tensions surrounding the war in Ukraine.
Bill Ingalls/NASA/AFP via Getty Images
Russian cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov.
Russian cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov is carried by the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft.
Bill Ingalls/NASA/AFP via Getty Images

“People have problems on Earth,” Shkaplerov said while formally handing over command of the space station to NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn. “In orbit we are a crew. I think the ISS is a symbol of friendship and cooperation, like a symbol of future space exploration.”

In total, Vande Hei spent 523 days in space as a NASA astronaut and covered more than 150 million miles on his record-breaking flight – the equivalent of 312 trips to the moon and back. It also orbited the planet approximately 5,680 times.

During his time on the ISS, he focused on scientific research, including plants and natural sciences, NASA said.

“Mark’s mission is not only record-breaking, but also paves the way for future human explorers on the Moon, Mars and beyond,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “NASA and the nation are proud to welcome Mark home and grateful for his incredible contributions during his year on the International Space Station.”

Vande Hei, meanwhile, vowed to “go outside as much as possible” in a video. posted by the ISS earlier this month.

“I’ve had a 24/7 indoor job for almost a year,” said Vande Hei. “That’s why I’m looking forward to being outside, whatever the weather.”

The all-time record for consecutive days in space belongs to Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov, who spent 438 consecutive days on a mission from January 1994 to March 1995.

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https://nypost.com/2022/03/30/mark-vande-hei-returns-to-earth-with-russian-cosmonauts/ Mark Vande Hei returns to Earth with Russian cosmonauts

JACLYN DIAZ

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