NASA astronaut, Russian cosmonauts put together to land in Kazakhstan

In a Russian Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft, Vande Hei and cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov undocked from the Worldwide House Station at 3.21 a.m. ET Wednesday. They’re scheduled to land on the steppe of Kazakhstan later Wednesday.

It is a extremely anticipated return that has solely drawn extra consideration as a result of mounting geopolitical tensions over the previous month, and NASA has repeatedly reaffirmed that it continues to work intently with Russian house company Roscosmos.

The spacecraft will expertise its deorbit burn at 6:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, with the crew anticipated to make their parachute-assisted touchdown at 7:28 a.m. ET southeast of the city of Dzhezkazgan.

Every step of the crew’s return is streaming dwell on NASA’s TV channel and website.

After touchdown, Vande Hei will journey again to Houston aboard a Gulfstream jet, as different NASA astronauts have carried out earlier than, and the cosmonauts will return to their coaching base in Star Metropolis, Russia.

Joint operations between NASA and Roscosmos on the Russian amenities at Baikonur, Kazakhstan, “proceed to go effectively,” mentioned Joel Montalbano, the supervisor of NASA’s Worldwide House Station program, throughout a press convention on March 14.

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Montalbano’s remarks got here as Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin made a number of fiery social media posts directed at the US, together with a closely edited, partially animated video that appeared to threaten that Russian astronauts would abandon Vande Hei in house. Rogozin has long been known to share outlandish statements on social media. Former astronaut Scott Kelly only recently backed off of a Twitter war with Rogozin.

Vande Hei and Dubrov launched to the house station in April 2021, and collectively they’ve accomplished 5,680 orbits of Earth and traveled greater than 150 million miles round our planet. Vande Hei has now damaged the file for the longest single spaceflight by an American astronaut, which beforehand was set by Kelly at 340 days.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei (background) and Roscosmos cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov launched to the space station in April 2021.
The prolonged mission will enable researchers to review the results of long-duration spaceflight on the human physique, just like the Twins Study that Kelly and his twin, Mark, participated in throughout Scott’s lengthy length. The insights gathered from prolonged missions can higher put together NASA to ship astronauts to the moon and on to Mars, in keeping with the company.

This was Vande Hei’s second spaceflight, so he has logged a complete of 523 days in house. It was Dubrov’s first flight.

In the meantime, Shkaplerov arrived on the house station in October together with a Russian director and actress who filmed the first movie in space. Whereas they returned to Earth simply weeks after their arrival, Shkaplerov remained on the house station and ends his fourth house mission with 708 whole days spent in house.

Change of command

Shkaplerov handed over command of the Worldwide House Station to NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn Tuesday morning. Earlier than handing Marshburn a ceremonial “key” to the house station, signifying the change in command, Shkaplerov mirrored on his time in house, together with a few of the conditions the crew have confronted.

Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei embraced during the change of command ceremony.
“It is like some satellites tried to kill us,” he mentioned, inflicting the assembled crew of 10 astronauts and cosmonauts to chortle. His remark was in reference to a Russian anti-satellite test that created debris in November.
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He additionally bolstered the close-knit and familial nature of the house station crew, particularly given present geopolitical tensions.

“Individuals have issues on Earth,” he mentioned. “On orbit, we’re one crew, and I feel ISS is sort of a image of the friendship, cooperation (and) our versatile way forward for exploration of house. Thanks very a lot, my crew members. You’re like my house brothers and house sister.”

Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov poses with a ruler and color chart for a space archaeology experiment.

Marshburn mentioned it was an honor and privilege to simply accept command of the house station, “persevering with the worldwide partnership and that legacy in spaceflight.” Marshburn thanked Shkaplerov for being a “fantastic commander.”

“I am unable to thanks sufficient in your dedication to the security of the station, the security of your crew, your humor, your friendship and your dedication to the flight management groups world wide,” Marshburn mentioned.

Comings and goings

After the departure of Vande Hei, Dubrov and Shkaplerov, the remaining house station crew consists of Marshburn, together with NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Kayla Barron, European House Company astronaut Matthias Maurer and the recently arrived Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov.
When the Russian trio docked with the house station on March 15, they sparked hypothesis by donning bright yellow spacesuits trimmed with blue. It raised questions on whether or not the three have been exhibiting solidarity with Ukraine by carrying its nationwide colours and rebuking their very own authorities’s invasion. To date, no definitive reply has been given.
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The house station will not be house to a crew of seven for lengthy. The personal Axiom House-1 mission, carrying former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria and US crew members Larry Connor, Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy, is launching to the house station no sooner than April 6. The Axiom crew will return after 10 days.

Then, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission will deliver NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins, in addition to ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, to the house station later in April.

No spacewalks are at the moment on the schedule throughout this time of heavy crew rotation. NASA continues to research a “more than normal” amount of water discovered inside Maurer’s helmet after his first spacewalk on March 23. A skinny layer of water was discovered inside his helmet as soon as he returned to the airlock practically seven hours after starting the spacewalk. The crew are attempting to grasp what prompted this and decide easy methods to repair it.

“The company and our worldwide companions are continually figuring out and mitigating dangers of human spaceflight,” in keeping with a NASA assertion.

CNN’s Katie Hunt and Jackie Wattles contributed to this report.

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