Will American Astronaut Mark Vande Hei Return to Earth Next Month?

Mark Vande Hei, the American astronaut, who is abroad at the International Space Station with two Russian cosmonauts, is set to return to earth in three weeks. Although he plans to end his 355 days in space next month, he may get stranded there due to the geopolitical tensions between the US and Russia.

The plan for Vande Hei was to land in Kazakhstan next month with the two Russian cosmonauts. He is set to return to earth in a Russian spacecraft holding the record for longest space flight. But Russia could put his return on hold because of the new sanction announced against the country by American President Joe Biden.

The unprecedented sanctions that included cutting Russia's high tech imports could degrade the country's aerospace industry, the US president said last month. Shortly, NASA released an official statement saying that "no changes are planned" on the US-Russian civil space cooperation. The agency also stated that they will continue to support "ongoing in orbit and ground station operations", ABC News reported.

American astronaut Mark Vande Hei.
American astronaut Mark Vande Hei. Twitter

Russian Space Agency Threatens to Leave Mark Vande Hei in Space

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency, posted a video on Twitter on February 26. In the clip, he threatened to leave the American astronaut in space and detach the country's segment of space station altogether. NASA has not responded to Rogozin's threat of abandoning Vande Hei in space.

The US and Russia have worked together on several space projects for more than two decades. They constructed and maintained the International Space Station for the last 24 years.

Astronaut Mark Vande Hei wraps up lubrication work on the latching end effector of the Canadarm2 robotic arm on October 10 nasa.gov

Who is Mark Vande Hei?

Mark Thomas Vande Hei is a retired army officer, who joined NASA in 2009. He has worked as a Flight Engineer on the International Space Station for several Expeditions 54 and 64. In March 2021, he was confirmed to be a part of the ISS Expedition 64/65 as a flight attendant.

Vande Hei launched onboard Soyuz MS-18 with Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov on April 9, 2021. After completing six months on the International Space Station, the American astronaut extended his stay for six more months. On January 6, he completed 273 days in space, breaking the record of NASA astronaut Andrew R Morgan.

The astronaut surpassed the record of NASA astronaut Christina Koch with flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov on March 3. Vande Hei will surpass the record of NASA astronaut Scott Kelly on March 15. He was set to return to space on March 30 after completing 355 days on the space station. He is planning to set a new record of staying in the space station for the longest period.

Related topics : Nasa