NASA will run a live broadcast of the return to Earth of American astronaut Mark Vande Hei after a record-breaking 355-day mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Along with Vande Hei, two Russian cosmonauts — Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov — will also touch down in Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz MS-19 capsule on March 30. The Soyuz will undock from the Rassvet module, heading for a parachute-assisted landing, NASA said. On March 15, Vande Hei has surpassed Scott Kelly's previously held record of 340 consecutive days in space.
NASA has announced it will provide live coverage of Vande Hei's return, from undocking to landing. The schedule is as follows:
- Farewells and hatch closure: March 30 at 9am IST
- Undocking: March 30 at 12:15pm IST
- Deorbit: March 30 at 3:45pm IST
- Landing: March 30 at 4:58pm IST
Before his departure for Earth, Shkaplerov will hand over command of the space station to NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn. This event will also air live on March 29 at 7:15pm IST.
People can watch the broadcast live on the NASA website and app.
After landing, the three will split up, as per standard crew return practice. Vande Hei will return to his home in Houston, and the cosmonauts will fly back to their training base in Star City, Russia, said NASA.
Shortly after surpassing the record for staying on the space station, Vande Hei spoke about his experience during the long mission. In a video shared by ISS on Twitter, Vande Hei said he had an indoor job for almost a year and now he's looking forward to “being outside no matter what kind of weather”.
Asked whether spending time in space has changed his view of Earth, Vande Hei said, “You are really in space. The only thing separating you from the vacuum of space is that precious thin layer of atmosphere that we call home”.
Vande Hei and Dubrov took off from Earth for the ISS on April 9, 2021. Shkaplerov launched on October 5.