NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei landed in Kazakhstan alongside two Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on Wednesday morning, NASA said, after spending a record-breaking 355 days in space.
Vande Hei said he avoided talking about the Russia-Ukraine conflict with his fellow Russian astronauts even before Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the Associated Press reported.
Shkaplerov told NASA TV Tuesday that although “people have problem[s] on Earth,” astronauts in space were “one crew,” calling the space station a symbol of “friendship and cooperation,” AP reported.
Vande Hei’s 355-day spaceflight breaks the previous record held by retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly by 15 days, NASA said.
Vande Hei contributed to hundreds of science experiments during his time in space, including six NASA-backed science investigations, which NASA said “benefit life on Earth” and will help future space missions.
In response to Western sanctions levied on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Russian space agency Roscosmos said earlier in the month that “the current conditions” caused “skepticism” about whether or not it would continue cooperation at the International Space Station beyond the agreed partnership until 2024. American sanctions on high-tech parts shipped to Russia are expected to affect its space program. American and Russian astronauts have previously cooperated in space even as tensions mounted on Earth, including during Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
US astronaut ends record-long spaceflight in Russian capsule (Associated Press)