US Astronaut Returns To Earth After 355 Days In Space

Zinger Key Points
  • Russian threat to strand him on ISS proved empty
  • Landed in Kazakhstan at 7:28 a.m. EDT on Wednesday

The threat by the head of the Russian space agency to leave U.S. astronaut Mark Vande Hei stranded on the International Space Station (ISS) came to naught as he traveled back to Earth with two Russian cosmonauts, ending a record-breaking time in space.

What Happened: CNN reported that Vande Hei left the ISS in a Russian Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft with cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov at 3:21 a.m. EDT this morning. The spacecraft touched down in Kazakhstan in a parachute-assisted landing at 7:28 a.m. EDT.

The Russian mission control center's main screen was more than cordial to Vande Hei, flashing the message "Welcome back, Mark!" in English and Russian. Vande Hei had been on the ISS for 355 days, making his space residency the longest for any astronaut.

See Also: 'I Say Something, And Then It Usually Happens': 20 Indelible Quotes From Elon Musk

Why It Matters: Vande Hei’s return to Earth was put into doubt when Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin raised the possibility of denying the astronaut passage on the Russian spacecraft. Rogozin also threatened to detach Russia's segment of the space station, effectively severing its outer space cooperation with the U.S. and other countries that participate in the ISS expeditions.

Although President Joe Biden reacted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with the threat to "degrade their aerospace industry, including their space program," the two countries have continued to cooperate on their space programs despite the worsening relations sparked by the Ukraine war.

Photo of Mark Vande Hei courtesy of NASA

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Posted In: NewsSPACEGeneralInternational Space StationMark Vander HeiNASARoscosmos
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