U.S. astronaut, Mark Vande Hei, has made his way back to Earth after a 355-day long mission in space - a record-breaking number. But he didn't return alone: Hei was joined by two Russian astronauts, also known as cosmonauts, named Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov. The three landed on Wednesday back on our planet, where a military conflict is currently going on between Russia and Ukraine. Here's what happened when they made their way to the International Space Station in a Soyuz capsule in Kazakhstan...
Immediately Vande Hei was met with NASA doctors and other team members to check how the 55-year-old astronaut was doing. They were also there to escort him back to Houston, Texas. Hei said that despite the tensions happening between the US and Russia, he and his crewmates all got along "fantastically … I'm not sure we really want to go there," he said, referring to discussions about the war. Shkaplerov also explained, "People have problems on Earth. On orbit … we are one crew," he continued his speech at the Space Station, which he described as a place for "friendship and cooperation and … future of exploration of space."
.@Astro_Sabot is back on Earth after a NASA record-breaking 355 days in space! Next he will fly from Kazakhstan and return to his @NASA_Johnson home base in Houston 24 hours later. pic.twitter.com/S4ZmLlBTlM— International Space Station (@Space_Station) March 30, 2022
While Vande Hei and Dubrov first took off almost a year ago on April 9th, Shkaplerov only joined them in October, along with a film crew. Because of this, the two astronauts extended their time in space. This ended up helping Vande Hei break NASA's former record by 15 days for the longest single spaceflight. Previously that honor was given to retired astronaut Scott Kelly back in 2016. "Broken records mean we're making progress," he said.
For Vande Hei, this was an extraordinary trip since it was double the length of his previous one which he took 4 years prior. The astronaut revealed that his daily mediation practice greatly helped him through the journey, “I’ve had an indoor job 24/7 for almost a year so I am looking forward to being outside no matter what kind of weather,” he revealed in a NASA video. Currently, two Russians, who took flight two weeks ago, one German astronaut, and three Americans are still onboard. They are planning to arrive back on Earth in three weeks via Elon Musk's SpaceX missions. Stay tuned.