Astronaut Mark Vande Hei Surpasses Record for Longest US Spaceflight

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei has broken Scott Kelly’s previous record of 340 days set back in 2016 for the longest US single spaceflight record.

Launch

Last April, Vande Hei and two Russian cosmonauts launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, arriving at the ISS just hours later. This marked the beginning of a planned sixth-month stay aboard the orbiting laboratory where he and his fellow crew members would conduct various science and research.

Within these initial six months, Mark Vande Hei worked on the handover between Expedition 64 and 65 with the departing Crew-1 astronauts aboard Dragon and Kate Rubins aboard Soyuz, and the arrival of Crew-2.

Launch of Soyuz MS-18 with Mark Vande Hei aboard. (Credit: NASA)

Extended mission

Five months into his mission, it was announced that Vande Hei along with cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov would have their missions extended by six months. Longer duration spaceflights have proved vital in determining how the human body deals with significant lengths of time in space. The science from astronauts Mark Vande Hei and from Scott Kelly’s earlier flight will be instrumental in paving the way for missions beyond Earth orbit as we look to destinations like Mars and beyond.

Return

Following a record-breaking 355 days on orbit, Vande Hei and crewmates Dubrov and Shkaplerov will undock from the ISS and begin their return to Earth on March 30 at 04:40 UTC.

Soon after, the Soyuz spacecraft will perform a deorbit burn before a landing southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan set for 11:29 UTC. This will complete a successful one-year mission for Mark Vande Hei and Pyotr Dubrov, and a sixth-month mission for Anton Shkaplerov.

Tensions on the ground

Despite concerns of Vande Hei being left stranded aboard the ISS due to ongoing Russia-US tensions, cooperation between NASA and Roscosmos continues, and the two agencies will safely return the astronaut.

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