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