NASA astronaut returns to Earth after record flight – Spaceflight Now

STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS & USED WITH PERMISSION

NASA pilot Mark Vande Hei gives up after landing in Kazakhstan, covering 355 days in space. Courtesy: NASA / Bill Ingalls

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hey joined two Russian cosmonauts aboard a Soyuz spacecraft, which took off from the International Space Station and returned to Earth Wednesday, landing in the steppe of Kazakhstan to cover a US-record 355 day sitting in the air.

Although the East-West relationship broke down after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, normal operations continued and Vande Hei was returned home as planned with Soyuz MS- 19 / 65S captain Anton Shkaplerov and aircraft engineer Pyotr Dubrov.

Descending under an orange-and-white parachute, the Soyuz descent module built a rock-assisted base near the town of Dzhezkazgan at 7:28 am EDT (5:28 pm local time). ).

Russian conservationists and NASA support staff quickly met on the plane to help the crews outside of each one for a preliminary inspection. The three were taken to nearby rest areas where they were seen in good spirits as they began to practice pulling gravity.

For Shkaplerov, who led a Russian player and coach to the airport last October, a touchdown covered a 176 -day flight, his fourth.

Mark Vande Hey, NASA astronaut Anton Shkaplerov, and flight engineer Pyotr Dubrov board the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft after landing. Courtesy: NASA / Bill Ingalls

Vande Hei, finishing his second flight, Dubrov flew for the first time on another Soyuz last April. While in orbit, the two men traveled 150 million miles over 5,680 orbits, recording 355 seven days and 45 minutes from Earth.

That set a single flight record for a U.S. astronaut, moving to Vande Hei before a 340 -day sign of Scott Kelly and a 329 -day sign of Christina Koch.

“I think it’s a really good thing,” Kelly said in an interview with CBS News. “What do you mean, stories are made to break? And that means we’re doing things better than we did before. Yes, thank him.”

With a previous visit, Vande Hei’s total time in space is now 523 days, making him third on NASA’s list of most experienced pilots after Peggy Whitson and Jeff Williams. Kelly moved somewhere in the fourth.

But the Russians keep the records for most of the time in the air and on Wednesday’s landing, Shkaplerov spent 708 days off Earth on four planes, becoming It was the seventh most intelligent aircraft in the world. In comparison, Vande Hei is 23rd on the world list.

In one case, Vande Hei downplayed the new US story before leaving the airwaves, saying “I don’t think it’s a story I’m going to pass on to me, it’s a story for our project lewa. “

“I have a lot of respect for Scott and Christina, both,” he said in a NASA interview. “And I know they’re both very happy. As tourists, we see we’re looking back, we’re taking people in the air for a long, long time.”

After a two -hour flight on a Russian helicopter in Karaganda, Vande Hei faced a long flight to his home in Houston on a NASA plane and Shkaplerov and Dubrov returned home in cosmonaut training center in Star City near Moscow.

Like all astronauts, Vande Hei spent two hours a day working with counterweight weights, mounted on a zero-gravity train or riding on a car. work out.

However, astronauts returning from a long stay in space for months will need to re -adjust gravity.

“You see, 355 days is a long time,” Kelly said. “I know 340 days is a long time. I think he was fine when he came back but yeah, it’s hard for you to go there that long.”

Vande Hei is undergoing months of physical therapy to regain his “ground foot,” which Vande Hei said in a NASA interview last week that he was determined to “do” a cup of coffee for my wife and myself and then sit in bed and talk to each other, read or search for news.

“Just relaxing on Saturday mornings is a great thing,” he said. “Then after that, I’d probably say guacamole and rubbish.”

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