Russia Has Made A Decision On The Fate Of The US Astronaut In The International Space Station

By Nathan Kamal | 2 months ago

international space station feature

Roscosmos, the Russian state space agency, has announced that they will not be stranding United States astronaut Mark Vande Hei on the International Space Station (or ISS) While this would seem like a bizarre statement to have to make (via the Russian state-owned news outlet TASS, no less) even just a few months ago, this is the world we now live in. Vande Hei, a former US Army officer and highly experienced astronaut and engineer, has been aboard the International Space Station since April 2021. Last year, he had his assignment extended in duration for another six months, and recently broke the record for the longest stay in space by an American astronaut. However, mounting tension between Russia and well, a whole lot of other countries in the world, led to some doubt whether the plan for Vande Hei to leave the station via Russian transport would be honored.

Fortunately, for at least the moment, Roscosmos will be providing transportation for Mark Vande Hei. The agency recently posted a video that many interpreted as a veiled threat that the Russian contingent aboard the International Space Station would be leaving the astronaut there. The video was deleted, but it remains an enormous matter of concern that even the implication of stranding a human being in orbit due to pressures caused by the Vladimir Putin-led Russian government invading the neighboring independent nation of Ukraine. It also does not help that the chief of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin (who is reportedly a member of Putin’s inner circle), has had extremely erratic messaging regarding the International Space Station of late. In the last several weeks, he has alternately called for aid from NASA and the space agencies of various nations after what he referred to as “illegal sanctions” resulting from the Russian invasion and also threatening to destroy the International Space Station and rain debris down on the world. It would also not be the first time that Russia nearly destroyed the station. 

The International Space Station was launched in 1998 as a five-part collaborative effort by the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and a conglomerate of European nations. For the 23 years it has been in operation, it has been a marker of relatively benevolent international cooperation and goodwill.  Unfortunately, we live in an increasingly bizarre world where the planet’s richest man (whose best long-term idea has been “a subway, but real fast”) uses social media to challenge the President of Russia to single combat. For the record, an estimated three million refugees have fled Ukraine during the ongoing invasion by Russian forces, while Elon Musk makes bear and flamethrower jokes about it. 

Hopefully, the current stance by Roscosmos and Rogozin will stand at least for the time period required for Mark Vande Hei to return planet-side safely. Russia is currently under an increasing amount of sanctions from international trade partners (and many businesses have ceased operation in the country, including enormous companies like McDonalds and Spotify), which is seemingly causing them to have to rethink some of their previous strategies. Good luck, Mr. Vande Hei.