NASA astronaut, two cosmonauts scheduled for Wednesday to return to Earth – Spaceflight Now

STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS & USED WITH PERMISSION

NASA pilot Mark Vande Hey as he launches the Russian Sokol and enters the spacesuit. Found: NASA

NASA pilot Mark Vande Hey, who was launched by Russia on the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft last April, returned this week to a world torn apart by the war in Ukraine and with increasing interest as it replaced a 355 -day stay in orbit, the longest. one flight by a US astronaut.

While Russia continues to invade Ukraine and break the East -West space relationship – with a threat of intimidation and a YouTube video, later described as “funny,” it says Vande Hei will be left behind the scene – the NASA astronaut and two fellow cosmonauts will return to Earth on Wednesday as planned.

Expedition 66 captain Anton Shkaplerov turned the lab over to NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn on Tuesday in a traditional change-of-command event marked by collisions and handshakes, without the knowledge of the conflict that threatens US-Russian relations on Earth.

“I am very proud to be the leader of this excellent army,” Shkaplerov said before handing over a “key to the open field” at Marshburn. “People are a problem on Earth, we are one group in orbit. I think the ISS is (a) a symbol of connection and integration and (a) a symbol of the future of search. In the air.

Marshburn said: “It is an honor and a privilege to accept the command of the International Space Station and to continue that planet and that legacy in flight. I want to thank you, you are a great leader. You, I can’t thank you enough.

After greeting their seven colleagues on Tuesday, Shkaplerov, Vande Hei and aircraft engineer Pyotr Dubrov planned to secure their Soyuz MS-19 / 65S ferry and open the module. Rassvet Russian at 3:21 am EDT Wednesday.

After taking a break to give Dubrov the opportunity to carry out a snapshot of the Russian modules of the field, Soyuz commander Shkaplerov will inspect an automated de-orbit box and return to fire on Earth, landing in the steppe of Kazakhstan near the city of Dzhezkazgan. at 7:28 am Wednesday (5:28 pm local time).

Vande Hei and Dubrov recorded the first time 355 days seven hours and 45 minutes from Earth, covering 5,680 orbits over a span of 150.1 million miles. Having previously occupied an airport in 2017-18, Vande Hei’s total time in the air between the two missionaries will stand at 523 days, moving him to third on the list of the most famous US astronauts behind Peggy Whitson and Jeff Williams.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian astronaut Anton Shkaplerov, seen here, are scheduled to return to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on March 30. Russian cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov will return. to Earth with them. Found: NASA

Asked how he maintained a good mood during the long flight from friends and family, Vande Hei said he tried to “listen to the day I go and not think. for the rest of the days. “

“And I’m really excited to have such good partners,” CBS News told a recent interview. “Everything’s going well, and it’s a pleasure.”

He practiced meditation for 20 minutes each day in the multi-window glass room, gazing at the amazing views of Earth amid a sea of ​​stars.

“Every morning, before everyone wakes up, with all the lights on, I can sit and look at the stars for 20 minutes,” he said. And I am very happy to have that knowledge. … I think I can find a better way to explain it to people. It’s just a motivator every now and then. “

NASA astronauts and support staff flew to Kazakhstan on a NASA plane last Friday and were on hand on Soyuz landing to welcome Vande Hei home and perform tests. early health when he began to regain gravity after a full year of weightlessness. .

Vande Hei and his supporters fly to the Johnson Space Center in Houston shortly after landing and Shkaplerov and Dubrov board a Russian plane to fly to the cosmonaut training center in nearby Star City. and Moscow.

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.”

Dubrov and Vande Hei were released from the Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard another Soyuz on April 9, 2021, meeting with captain Oleg Novitskiy. When they left, Vande Hei and Dubrov did not know how long they would be in the air because they did not know about the Russian release process.

“I didn’t know it would take long,” he told CBS News. “But I knew it was possible, and I knew my family knew that. And they all agreed that I would. So no, I had no second thoughts. I thought it was the right time to to fill what we have, and I am very happy to be able to fill it. “

Last October, Russia launched a Soyuz carrying Shkaplerov, a Russian actor and his guide to take pictures for a movie on the airport. The actor and director took the seats that could take Dubrov and Vande Hei to Earth after six months in the air.

Novitskiy brought the two back home last October, leaving Shkaplerov behind to bring Dubrov and Vande Hey back to Earth this week after a full year in the air. The duration of the mission for Shkaplerov stood at 176 days and two hours.

Mark Vande Hey in the cupboard on the International Space Station. The Soyuz MS-19, which is flying to Earth, is seen later. Found: NASA

Some Russian cosmonauts have registered planes for more than a year – a record of 437 days and 17 hours – but Vande Hei’s 355 -day record set a single flight record for U.S. astronauts. more than Scott Kelly and Christina Koch’s 340 -day mark. -day sitting on stage, world record for woman.

“I think it’s a great thing,” Kelly said in a recent phone 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.”

As for his opinion, Vande Hei said “I don’t think it’s a story to tell me, it’s a story for our air project.”

“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 forward to it, we’re taking people in the air for a long, long time.

“I think this story will be broken, and that will be the new focus for our air project.”

But Vande Hei will not break the story. He told his wife before he started as a missionary that he was now his successor.

“This is the end of a part of my life,” he said. “I swore to my wife that I would never fly in the sky again. So that would be bitter. I am so grateful to have this amazing opportunity to come up on the airfield, to be here with the best people. I will consider them friends for the rest of my life, to serve my country and all people.

“So there will be gratitude for it, excitement for the future and also a little sadness, because I am closing the door on it, I can’t come back. And this is a very special place.

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