A NASA astronaut will finally fly home on Wednesday after Russia threatened to abandon him in space.

Mark Vande Hei, 55, is due to return from the International Space Station on March 30 onboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Nasa astronaut Mark Vande Hei will return to Earth on Wednesday


Nasa astronaut Mark Vande Hei will return to Earth on Wednesday

In response to sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, the country’s space agency had hinted that they would leave him behind.

Head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin posted a sinister video on March 13 that depicted the mission’s two cosmonauts flying home without Hei.

March 30 flight explained

Mark Vande Hei, a Nasa astronaut, and two Russian cosmonauts, Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, are due to return to earth on Wednesday, March 30.

The three cosmonauts have been stationed aboard the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits roughly 250 miles above Earth.

Vande Hei and Pyotr Dubrov blasted off towards the ISS on April 5, 2021, while Shkaplerov launched on a Soyuz MS-19 on October 5, 2021. 

The astronauts have been conducting studies on cotton genetics and gathering data while aboard the ISS.

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Vande Hei recently broke records for the longest single spaceflight by an American astronaut after spending a total of 355 days on the orbiter – the previous record was held at 340 days.

To head back down to Earth, the three astronauts will first undock from the Rassvet module.

Then their Soyuz spacecraft will go into a parachute-assisted landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan.

After landing, the Soyuz MS-19 crew will split up – a standard crew return practice.

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Vande Hei will be returning to his home in Houston while the cosmonauts fly back to their training base in Star City, Russia.

During the change of command ceremony on Tuesday, Shkaplerov joked about the trio’s time together on ISS.

He said: “Some satellites tried to kill us but we worked together very hard.”

Referencing ongoing tensions between the U.Ss and Russia, he added: “People have problems on Earth. In orbit, we are one crew.”

Why did Russia threaten to leave Hei behind?

On March 13, Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin dramatically threatened to leave Hei on the ISS.

He posted a video online featuring up-beat music with the lyric “Farewell”.

The clip depicts the two cosmonauts on board the ISS waving the Nasa astronaut goodbye.

They are also shown detaching Russia’s segment of the station – which would send the 450-ton space lab spiralling to Earth.

Writing on Twitter, Rogozin boasted to the West that the ISS “does not fly over Russia, therefore all the risks are yours”.

But space experts say his claim is incorrect, pointing out that the space station routinely skirts past southern regions of Russia.

The comments were made in response to U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia over its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last month.

Rogozin is known for making inflammatory comments on social media in order to spark panic in the West.

Roscosmos later clarified that it had no intention of leaving Hei behind and would not detach its segment of the station.

How to watch the flight live

Nasa has said it will offer live coverage of the crew’s farewells, undocking, and landing from the ISS on NASA TV.

The farewell and hatch closure will go live on Wednesday, March 30 at 03:30 a.m. UK time (11:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday).

The undocking can be viewed on Wednesday at 06:45 a.m. UK time (02:45 a.m. EST).

Lastly, the deorbit burn and landing will be live-streamed at 10:15 a.m. UK time (06:15 a.m. EST).

You can watch Nasa TV for free on Nasa’s website and official YouTube channel.

The International Space Station orbits roughly 250 miles (410km) above Earth


The International Space Station orbits roughly 250 miles (410km) above EarthCredit: Nasa

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This post first appeared on Thesun.co.uk

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