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NASA confirms the US astronaut will return with cosmonauts on a Russian spacecraft later this month

As Russian forces invade Ukraine and the West responds with unprecedented sanctions, an American astronaut prepares to fly back to Earth from the International Space Station with two cosmonauts in a Russian spacecraft later this month.

Mark Vande Hei, a retired Army colonel, will on Tuesday break the record for the longest uninterrupted stay in space by a US astronaut before departing the ISS on March 30.

there were some fears after Russia invaded Ukraine that the cosmonauts would leave Vande Hei when they returned to Earth in a few weeks.

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency and a longtime Putin ally, has posted a video of the US flag being removed from a Soyuz rocket and has publicly feuded with retired US astronaut Scott Kelly.

In a since-deleted tweet Rogozin allegedly told it Kelly that the “death of the [ISS] will be on your conscience.”

Russian state media company RIA Novosti also shared edited footage from the ISS that appears to show the cosmonauts waving goodbye to Vande Hei and departing without him before the Russian segment separates from the rest of the space station.

“It kind of made me angry that the country where we’ve been in this international partnership for 20 years is taking the time to shoot a video to threaten to abandon one of the crew members it’s responsible for ‘ Kelly told the Wall Street Journal this week.

“They have agreed to be responsible for his safety, getting him to the space station and home. For me, that just crossed the line.”

Despite the concerns, NASA said it continues to work with its Russian counterparts and Vande Hei will be on the Soyuz rocket later this month.

“We have the return of a Soyuz on March 30, a return of Anton, Pyotr and Mark. And I can tell you for sure that Mark will be coming home in her Soyuz. We are in contact with our Russian colleagues. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Joel Mantalbano, the ISS program manager, said Monday at a NASA press conference.

“Our colleagues at Roscosmos have confirmed that they are ready to bring the entire crew home. All three.”

Roskosmos also said through Russian state media that the March 30 return would proceed as planned.

Russian Space Agency Roscosmos cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov, Oleg Novitskiy and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei pose for a photo during a training session ahead of their expedition to the International Space Station in Star City, Russia, March 20, 2021.
Russian Space Agency Roscosmos cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov, Oleg Novitskiy and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei pose for a photo during a training session ahead of their expedition to the International Space Station in Star City, Russia, March 20, 2021.
Andrey Shelepin/GCTC/Russian Space Agency Roscosmos/Handout via Reuters

“Roscosmos has never let anyone doubt its reliability as a partner,” said the space agency TASS.

The two Russians, Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov, will land in Khazakstan with Vande Hei later this month.

Vande Hei and Dubrov originally launched to the ISS last April and are staying twice as long as usual to accommodate a Russian film crew. By the time Vande Hei returns, he will have spent 355 days in space, a new US record.

The Biden administration targeted Russia’s aerospace industry in the first round of sanctions after Putin invaded Ukraine last month.

“We estimate that we will cut off more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports and it will deal a blow to their ability to further modernize their military.” It will affect their aerospace industry, including their space program,” Biden said on Feb. 24.

NASA and space agencies in Europe, Japan and Canada want to keep the ISS running until 2030, but the Russians have not committed beyond 2024.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

https://nypost.com/2022/03/15/nasa-confirms-us-astronaut-will-return-with-cosmonauts-on-russian-spacecraft-later-this-month/ NASA confirms the US astronaut will return with cosmonauts on a Russian spacecraft later this month

JACLYN DIAZ

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