Laurel Duggan on March 14, 2022
American astronaut Mark Vande Hei will travel back to Earth with two Russians in late March after 355 days in space, according to the Associated Press.
NASA’s original plan for Vande Hei’s return has not changed in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, despite increased tensions between NASA and the Russian Space Agency resulting in broken contracts and canceled launches, the AP reported.
— NASA’s Johnson Space Center (@NASA_Johnson) March 12, 2022
Dmitry Rogozin, leader of the Russian Space Agency, is a longtime ally of Vladimir Putin, according to the AP. He previously threatened to pull out of the International Space Station and drop it on the U.S., Europe or elsewhere.
In another incident in early March, Rogozin covered the flags of other countries on a rocket before takeoff and made demands of a London-based customer and the British government which resulted in the launch being called off, the AP reported.
A European Space Agency mission was called off after a planned September 2022 liftoff was delayed until at least 2024, and Russia removed its staff from a French-run launch site and suspended Soyuz launches of European satellites, according to the AP.
Vande Hei will leave the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz capsule after breaking the U.S. record for most days spent in space, according to the AP. He is expected to land in Kazakhstan March 30.
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