NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei has broken the record for the longest US human spaceflight.
Tuesday marks 341 consecutive days in space for Vande Hei, surpassing Scott Kelly’s record-breaking 340-day stint aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine, NASA officials have managed to maintain operations on the ISS. Vande Hei is still poised to return safely to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz spaceship on March 30.
“Nothing has changed in the last three weeks,” Joel Montalbano, NASA’s ISS program manager, said in a spacewalk press briefing on Monday.
“I can tell you for sure, Mark is coming home on that Soyuz. We are in communication with our Russian colleagues. There’s no fuzz on that.”
By the time he lands in Kazakhstan, the astronaut will have spent 355 days in space.
“I don’t think it’s really my record – I think it would be the whole team’s,” Vande Hei told Insider in August. “It’s just another step forward for humanity. I also don’t expect that to be a record that would last very long, because we’re doing bigger and better things all the time.”
Vande Hei and his crewmate, Russian cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov, didn’t plan to but had a hint that they would have to extend their shift to a full year instead of just 6 months.
Although Roscosmos and NASA continue to collaborate on the ISS, Rogozin has targeted the station in his Twitter tirades. On February 24, he claimed the ISS would lose orbit and begin an uncontrolled fall to Earth if Russia withdrew its spaceships, which routinely fire their engines to push the ISS higher, a maneuver called a “reboost,” after the station loses altitude.
Vande Hei’s mother, Mary, told that Rogozin was making “a terrible threat.”
“When I first heard it, I did a lot of crying. It’s very troubling. We are just doing a lot of praying,” she told the Mail, adding, “It is really a shame that it’s been politicized like this. It’s quite a shock.”
Vande Hei’s wife, Julie, is “very worried,” she added.
“These threats are just one person speaking and though it’s the head of the Russian space agency, all the other people within the space agency seem very cooperative,” Vande Hei’s father, Tom, told the Mail, adding, “Our son does not scare easily.”