Mark Vande Hei, a NASA astronaut, returned to Earth on Wednesday with two Russian counterparts, landing in Kazakhstan after he spent 355 days in space.
Vande Hei and his Russian crewmates, Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, flew home together in a Russian spacecraft, guided by Russian flight controllers. At the landing site, Vande Hei was met by a contingent of NASA and Russian personnel, a close collaboration between the two space agencies that has continued despite Russia’s deadly invasion of Ukraine and the tensions it has caused between Moscow and the West.
The three men returned to a world where cooperation between Russia and the United States to preserve the future of the International Space Station can no longer be taken for granted.
The space station was meant to be a marvel of peaceful post-Cold War amity between Moscow and Washington, drawing Russia into the community of international collaboration and preventing Russian rocket engineers from selling expertise to countries like North Korea seeking to build better missiles.