(DZHEZKAZGAN, Kazakstan) — NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned to Earth Wednesday, after spending a record-breaking 355 days in low-Earth orbit. Vande Hei shared a spacecraft with two Russian cosmonauts as tensions between the Russia and the U.S. continue amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Vande Hei returned in a Soyuz spacecraft with Russian cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov, making a parachute-assisted landing at 7:28 a.m. in Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. The trio had departed the International Space Station at 3:21 a.m. ET.
Vande Hei broke the record for the longest spaceflight by a NASA astronaut by 15 days. The record was previously held by retired astronaut Scott Kelly.
On this spaceflight, Vande Hei completed 5,680 orbits of the Earth and a journey of more than 150 million miles, roughly the equivalent of 312 trips to the Moon and back, according to NASA.
This trip gave Vande Hei a lifetime total of 523 days in space.
“Mark’s mission is not only record-breaking, but also paving the way for future human explorers on the Moon, Mars, and beyond,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a press release. “Our astronauts make incredible sacrifices in the name of science, exploration, and cutting-edge technology development, not least among them time away from loved ones.”
Nelson added: “NASA and the nation are proud to welcome Mark home and grateful for his incredible contributions throughout his year-long stay on the International Space Station.”
According to NASA, Vande Hei contributed to dozens of studies from the hundreds executed during his mission, including six science investigations supported by NASA’s Human Research Program.
As NASA plans to return to the Moon, under the Artemis program, and prepares for the exploration of Mars, the agency said Vande Hei’s extended mission will provide researchers the opportunity to observe the effects of long-duration spaceflight on humans.
After the crew goes through post-landing medical checks, they will be flown to the recovery staging city in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, on Russian helicopters. Vande Hei will then board a NASA plane to Cologne, Germany, for refueling, prior to his return home.
Shkaplerov and Dubrov will be flown home to Star City, Russia, on a Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center aircraft.
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