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American astronaut returns to Earth on Russian spacecraft

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World
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei with Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov.

US: In a rare sign of cooperation between the U.S. and Russia, astronauts from both countries parachute-landed in Kazakhstan on Wednesday after a trip back to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS).

The capsule carrying NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts, Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, completed a parachute-assisted landing several hours after undocking from the ISS. This homeward journey for the trio comes after the US and Russia have clashed recently over Russia’s ongoing military invasion of Ukraine. For U.S. astronaut Vande Hei, it ended a U.S. record-breaking stay in space. He was in space for 355 days, breaking the previous record of 340 days set by Scott Kelly in 2016. “Mark’s mission is not only record-breaking, but also paving the way for future human explorers on the Moon, Mars, and beyond,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “NASA and the nation are proud to welcome Mark home and grateful for his incredible contributions throughout his year-long stay on the International Space Station,” Nelson added.

Despite escalating tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Vladimir Putin’s war with Ukraine, Vande Hei’s return followed customary procedures. A small NASA team of doctors and other staff was on hand for the touchdown and planned to return immediately to Houston with the 55-year-old astronaut. NASA says the two countries are continuing to cooperate on the ISS, although Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, posted a series of angry tweets shortly after the invasion of Ukraine, suggesting Russia could abandon the ISS and let it plummet back to Earth. He had also shared a video showing Russian cosmonauts abandoning Vande Hei on the ISS.

Also in a handover ceremony Tuesday before departing the orbital outpost, Russian cosmonaut Shkaplerov, who commanded the ISS crew, embraced his fellow astronauts as “my space brothers and space sister” and said “People have problems on Earth. On orbit we are one crew.” – NDTV

Friday, April 1, 2022 – 01:00











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