On March 30, 2020, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned to Earth after 355 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS). He broke the record for the longest spaceflight by an American astronaut. In a video published by the NASA Johnson channel, Vande Hei answers social media questions on March 10 and reflects on his record-breaking spaceflight.
The record for the longest spaceflight by an American astronaut was previously held at 340 days by Scott Kelly.
Here are the questions and Vande Hei’s answers:
- What did you bring on this mission?
- I brought my wedding ring. It’s not on my finger, but it’s always been on my watchband.
- Were you upside down a lot?
- Every time I needed to be upside down, I did it. And I got really comfortable flippin’ directions. No hands. So, that’s one of the joys of spaceflight.
- Now that you’ve set a record of consecutive days in space, have you decided to make any changes in your life?
- To get outside as much as possible. I’ve had an indoor job 24/7, for almost a year. So, I’m looking forward to being outside, no matter what kinda weather.
- Has spending time in space changed your view of our home planet?
- The big change in how I view the planet is really this concept that we all have as earthlings of being separate from space. Having been up here, looking down on the Earth from outside the atmosphere… to me, that atmosphere, right now, looks so thin. That back on Earth, it seems much clearer to me that when you’re standing outside looking up at the stars… you’re really in space. The only thing separating you from the vacuum of space is that precious thin layer of atmosphere that we call home.
- How important was your mission to the space station? To our planet, and to yourself as a human being?
- Every day, there are 60 to 100 experiments are going on at any given time. Now we don’t operate those experiments all the time, but they are on the space station, in progress. And I really believe that all the days we spent on the space station, the money we’ve invested, the talent we’ve invested, we’ll continue to result in fantastic scientific discoveries, and we’ll just help human progress.
- What scientific experiment did you like working on the most and why?
- A unique experience we had with growing hot Chili papers. And the reason I like it so much is that when I opened up that cover and smelled those peppers, it was such a shocking experience, this smell of plants and vegetation. It was amazing. And then, we got to eat the peppers. So that was a huge bonus.
- What was your most memorable experience at the International Space Station?
- I would say on this trip, it has been some of the auroras we’ve seen. either the Aurora Australis, down south, or the Aurora Borealis, up north. I just had this incredible sense of witnessing something that was timeless.
Live Stream: Vande Hei returns to Earth after record-breaking 355 days in space
Mark T. Vande Hei
Mark Thomas Vande Hei (born November 10, 1966) is a retired United States Army officer and NASA astronaut who has served as a Flight Engineer for Expeditions 53, 54, 64, 65, and 66 to the International Space Station.
Vande Hei lived and worked aboard the microgravity laboratory to advance scientific knowledge and demonstrate new technologies for future human and robotic exploration missions as part of NASA’s Moon and Mars exploration approach, including lunar missions through NASA’s Artemis program.
After his record-breaking second spaceflight, Vande Hei spent a total of 523 days, 8 hours, and 59 minutes in space.
Supporting NASA’s goals for future human landings on the Moon, Vande Hei completed approximately 5,680 orbits of the Earth and a journey of more than 150 million miles (241 million km), roughly the equivalent of 312 trips to the Moon and back. He witnessed the arrival of 15 visiting spacecraft and new modules, and the departure of 14 visiting spacecraft.
Vande Hei wrote on Twitter shortly after his arrival back on Earth that:
“Fantastic place, occupied by amazing people, working for all of humanity. I’ll forever cherish the memories of serving on the International Space Station. Now, though, I’m thrilled to be back on Mother Earth!”
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said:
“Mark’s mission is not only record-breaking, but also paving the way for future human explorers on the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Our astronauts make incredible sacrifices in the name of science, exploration, and cutting-edge technology development, not least among them time away from loved ones. NASA and the nation are proud to welcome Mark home and grateful for his incredible contributions throughout his year-long stay on the International Space Station.”
- Mark T. Vande Hei on Wikipedia
- Record-Setting NASA Astronaut, Crewmates Return from Space Station (NASA Press Release, March 30, 2022)
- “After 355 days aboard the ISS, astronaut Mark Vande Hei returns to Earth a changed man” on the Engadget website
- “Mark Vande Hei and Crew Mates Safely Land” on the NASA website
- “NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei back on Earth after the record-breaking mission” on Space.com
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