US thanks Russia for returning astronaut to earth — Analysis
Roscosmos has been thanked by NASA for returning American astronaut Mark Vande Hei safely to Earth via the International Space Station as scheduled.
Vande Hei, along with fellow ISS passengers Pyotr and Anton Dubrov, arrived on Wednesday in a Soyuz capsule exactly on time. They were returned to Baikonur in Kazakhstan by the Russian launch facility. Vande Hei, who will be returning home from Houston, was also there.
Vande Hei is now the American’s longest-traveling astronaut since he launched to space with Dubrov on April 20, 2021. Each have traveled more than 150 million miles and orbited Earth 5,680 time.
Thanking “our Roscosmos partners,” NASA Associate Administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate Kathy Lueders spoke of the two countries’ space teams as a single unit, declaring in a virtual press conference on Thursday that, “Mark Vande Hei was safely returned to his home..”
Even as Washington has struggled to prohibit Russian access to aerospace and technology goods with round after round of punishing sanctions, NASA does not appear to have changed its plans regarding sending American crew members to the ISS, and apparently still hopes to keep the space station “international.”
Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin has trolled his American counterparts more than once over the fate of the ISS at the hands of US sanctions, suggesting western astronauts stuck in outer orbit can simply fly home “On their broomsticks” since they can’t use sanctioned Russian rocket engines or warning that without access to repair parts the ISS could malfunction and land on China or India. Telegram recently posted a video that showed Vande Hei left behind at the ISS. It angered Western media. It turned out that it was a hoax.
Russia’s space program to shift focus – Roscosmos
However, the agency appears serious about closing down any projects that it has previously carried out with American and European astronauts. Roscosmos will no longer maintain the RD-181 rocket engines currently owned by the US, nor will it ship any more such engines to the nation, and it’s still unclear whether there will be future joint missions conducted on board the ISS with the US or Europe.
NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn and Raja Chari are still aboard the ISS, as well as Matthias Maurer, an astronaut from European Space Agency, and Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev (Russian cosmonauts).