A NASA astronaut will finally fly home on Wednesday after Russia threatened to abandon him in space.
Mark Vande Hei, 55, will return from the International Space Station on March 30 aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
In response to sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, the country’s space agency had indicated they would leave him behind.
Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin released an eerie video on March 13 showing the mission’s two cosmonauts flying home without a Hei.
Flight declared on March 30th
Mark Vande Hei, a Nasa astronaut, and two Russian cosmonauts, Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, are expected to return to Earth on Wednesday, March 30th.
The three cosmonauts were stationed aboard the International Space Station (ISS), orbiting about 250 miles above Earth.
Vande Hei and Pyotr Dubrov launched on April 5, 2021 towards the ISS, while Shkaplerov launched on October 5, 2021 on a Soyuz MS-19.
The astronauts conducted cotton genetics studies on board and collected data ISS.
Vande Hei recently broke records for the longest single space flight by an American astronaut, having spent a total of 355 days on the orbiter – the previous record was 340 days.
To return to Earth, the three astronauts will first undock from the Rassvet module.
Then their Soyuz spacecraft will parachute into the steppe of Kazakhstan.
After landing, the Soyuz MS-19 crew will split up – standard practice for crew return.
Vande Hei will return to his home in Houston while the cosmonauts fly back to their training base in Star City, Russia.
During Tuesday’s change of command ceremony, Shkaplerov joked about the trio’s time together on the ISS.
He said: “Some satellites tried to kill us, but we worked very hard together.”
Referring to the ongoing tensions between the US 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, Dmitry Rogozin, director general of Roscosmos, dramatically threatened to leave Hei on the ISS.
He posted a video online containing upbeat music with the lyrics “Farewell.”
The clip shows the two cosmonauts on board the ISS waving goodbye to the NASA astronaut.
They are also shown severing Russia’s segment of the station – which would send the 450-ton space lab in a helical spiral towards Earth.
Rogozin wrote on Twitter, bragging to the West that the ISS “does not fly over Russia, so all the risks are on you.”
However, space experts say his claim is false, pointing out that the space station routinely passes by southern regions of Russia.
The comments were made in response to US sanctions imposed on Russia over its all-out invasion of Ukraine last month.
Rogozin is known for making inflammatory comments on social media to create panic in the West.
Roscosmos later clarified that it had no intention of leaving Hei behind and not separating its segment of the station.
How to watch the flight live
NASA has announced that it will broadcast the farewells, undocking and landing of the crew from the ISS live on NASA television.
The farewell and closing of the hatch will go live on Wednesday 30th March at 04:30 UK time (23:30 EST on Tuesday).
The undocking can be viewed on Wednesday at 07:45 UK time (02:45 EST).
Finally, the deorbit burn and landing will be streamed live at 11:15am UK time (06:15am EST).
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https://www.thesun.ie/tech/8576935/nasa-astronaut-returns-earth-russian-pod-how-to-watch/ The Nasa astronaut returns to Earth in a Russian capsule TOMORROW after threatening to abandon it – as can be seen live