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NASA Astronaut Mark Vande Hei Has Returned To The Earth Aboard A Russian Rocket

This morning, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei came back from the International Space Station to Earth in an interesting vehicle: a Russian Soyuz capsule, along with two Russian cosmonauts.

Previously, it was a norm for NASA to regularly contract the Russian space agency, Roscmosmos, to fly its astronauts from the ISS. But as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has taken a toll on the relationship between the two countries and it almost seems like the relationship is at its breaking point, there have been speculations on what would these missions look like now.

Fortunately, it seems like things are fine.

“Probably the last time Americans and Russians fly together in space for a long time, but Roscosmos was professional and classy with Mark’s return,” wrote NASASpaceFlight editor Chris Berger after the successful landing in Kazakhstan this morning.

NASA officials have repeatedly stressed that even though there are some solemn tensions in the international arena, the collaboration between Russia and the United States on the ISS remains smooth.

“For the safety of our astronauts, the working relationship between NASA and our international partners continues,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said earlier this week.  “And that includes the professional relationship between the cosmonauts and our astronauts.”

“I was just enraged that he, the [cosmonauts], said that they were going to leave an American crew member behind,” says the former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly.

Nelson’s counterpart in the Russian space program, Dmitry Rogozin, hasn’t echoed NASA’s even-tempered tone. Instead, he’s released a series of statements that have alternated between weird tones.

At the landing site in Kazakhstan, though, it sounds like everything stayed professional.