American astronaut to return to Earth on Russian spacecraft

TEHRAN, Mar. 15 (MNA) – Despite Ukraine-Russia tensions, plans remain in place to bring NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei back to Earth as planned aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft at the end of the month.

Geopolitical tensions won't keep an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts from returning to Earth together as planned this month, Space. Com reported.

NASA's Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov have long been scheduled to come home from the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on March 30.

And that remains the plan, despite the strain that Russia's ongoing military operation in Ukraine has placed on Russia's many space partnerships.

"I can tell you for sure: Mark is coming home on that Soyuz," Joel Montalbano, the manager of NASA's International Space Station program, said during a news conference on March 14.

"We are in communication with our Russian colleagues; there's no fuzz on that," he said.

The March 30 event will proceed like other Soyuz returns, Montalbano added. Vande Hei, Dubrov, and Shkaplerov will touch down on the steppes of Kazakhstan.

About 20 NASA employees will be waiting there to help assess Vande Hei's physical condition — he has spent nearly a year in microgravity, which can be very hard on the human body — and bring him back to Houston, where NASA's human spaceflight program is centered.

RHM/PR

News Code 184885

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