Houston: A NASA astronaut caught a Russian ride back to Earth on Wednesday after a U.S. record 355 days at the International Space Station, returning with two cosmonauts to a world torn apart by war.
Mark Vande Hei landed in a Soyuz capsule in Kazakhstan alongside the Russian Space Agency’s Pyotr Dubrov, who also spent the past year in space, and Anton Shkaplerov. The wind blew the capsule onto its side following the touchdown, and the trio emerged into the late afternoon sun one by one.
Vande Hei, the last one out, grinned and waved as he was carried to a reclining chair out in the open Kazakh steppes.
“Beautiful out here,” said Vande Hei, putting on a face mask and ball cap.
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.