NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned from the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, setting a new record for the longest single spaceflight in history by an American. Vande Hei launched on April 9, 2021, for a mission total of 355 days, 15 days longer than the previous record. According to NASA, he completed approximately 5,680 orbits of the Earth, saw the arrival of 15 spacecraft and new modules and the departure of 14 visiting spacecraft during his time on the station.
“Mark’s mission is not only record-breaking, but also paving the way for future human explorers on the Moon, Mars, and beyond,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “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.”
Vande Hei and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov landed southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 5:28 p.m. on Wednesday. Dubrov also spent 355 days in space, having launched with Vande Hei as members of Expeditions 64-66 on the ISS. NASA stated that the mission “will provide researchers the opportunity to observe the effects of long-duration spaceflight on humans as the agency plans to return to the Moon.”