Mark Vande Hei, one of NASA’s astronauts, will stay on International Space Station until March of next year, setting a new American spaceflight endurance record in the process.
According to the agency, Vande Hei and Russian cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov’s six-month residencies on the station have been extended by an additional six months. Along with Oleg Novitskiy, the two were sent to the station in the Soyuz MS-18 spaceship on April 9.
Normally, after the deployment of a substitute crew on the Soyuz MS-19 in October, the 3 would have returned jointly on that spacecraft. However, Roscosmos previously announced earlier this year that it would send Klim Shipenko, director and actress Yulia Peresild, as well as Anton Shkaplerov, a cosmonaut, to the station on this spacecraft.
Shipenko and Peresild will film scenes for the movie on this station for roughly two weeks before returning on Soyuz MS-18 together with Novitskiy. Shkaplerov, along with Vande Hei and Dubrov’s extended missions, will stay on thiss station for six months.
As per NASA, Dubrov and Vande Hei will return in March 2022 with Shkaplerov. While NASA did not provide an exact return timeline, Vande Hei stated on Twitter that he expected to be in space for 353 days. Scott Kelly’s “one-year” mission to the International Space Station in 2015–16 set a record for longest spaceflight done by an American astronaut at 340 days.
“An extended stay was a prospect that I was ready for from the beginning,” Vande Hei wrote. It’s a dream come true to be able to do this with such amazing crewmates while also advancing to science and the future exploration!”
Vande Hei stated he was informed of Russian intentions to shoot a movie on the station in October, which would have taken seats that would have been utilized for him to be able to return home after 6 months, even before the launch. “To be honest, it’s just a possibility for a fresh life experience for me.” In a preflight presentation in March, he remarked, “I’ve never been in space for more than six months.”
Nelson expressed his gratitude to Vande Hei with a tweet of his own. “Thank you very much, Mark, for your commitment to @NASA and research, which will help humanity prepare for Artemis trips to the Moon and, ultimately, Mars!” Vande Hei may be given a second chance to undertake a spacewalk as a result of his longer stay. Last month, he was supposed to join Aki Hoshide on the spacewalk to deploy equipment for potential solar panel modifications. However, NASA had to postpone it due to a “small medical issue” involving Vande Hei. The agency provided no other details, but Vande Hei posted on Twitter that he was suffering from a pinched nerve in the neck. Thomas Pesquet took the position of Vande Hei on that spacewalk, which took place on Sept. 12.