Concern for NASA Astronaut Aboard the ISS Grows Amid Russian Invasion of Ukraine

by Victoria Santiago
(Photo by NASA via Getty Images)

Concern for a NASA astronaut aboard the ISS is growing as Russia threatens to leave him in space. He is due to return at the end of March. Mark Vande Hei, 55, is supposed to return to Earth on March 30 along with two Russian cosmonauts aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Due to the US supporting Ukraine amid a Russian invasion, the head of the country’s space agency is threatening to leave him up there.

Even though Mark Vande Hei has been caught in the middle of this conflict, his family says that he “does not scare easily.”

NASA Astronaut Stationed At ISS Had ‘Great Relationships’ With Cosmonauts

Obviously, the family of Mark Vande Hei are worried about his safety and want to see him return home. There’s not much they can do from here, though. “It’s a terrible threat. When I first heard it I did a lot of crying,” his mother, Mary, said. “It’s very troubling. We are just doing a lot of praying.”

Mark Vande Hei is supposed to return to Earth after spending 355 days in orbit. That’s the longest time a Western astronaut has ever been in space. However, his ticket home is meant to land in Russia-supporting Kazahkstan.

The NASA astronaut’s family has been asking for calm during this stressful time. “It is really a shame that it’s been politicized like this,” his mother added. “It’s quite a shock. His wife, Julie, is very worried in Texas. it’s very hard for her right now.”

Mary and her husband, Tom, had joined their son in Kazakhstan in 2017 when he was launched to the ISS for his first six-month stint in space. “It was wonderful to see people from all different countries work together,” she recalled. “Mark has great relationships with all the astronauts and cosmonauts.”

His father added: “These threats are just one person speaking and, though it’s the head of the Russian space agency, all the other people within the space agency seem very cooperative. Our son does not scare easily.”

At this time, NASA is confident that Mark Vande Hei will return to Earth as planned. Elon Musk has also offered his help in bringing the astronaut back.

International Space Station Has Been Threatened By Russia

Threatening to leave a NASA astronaut at the ISS isn’t the only claim that Russia has been making. Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, has even threatened to send the space station back down to Earth.

Rogozin’s threats come after President Joe Biden announced sanctions against Russia that would “degrade their aerospace industry, including their space program.”

Rogozin said: “Do you want to destroy our co-operation on the ISS? If you block co-operation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled de-orbit and fall into the United States or Europe?”

He added that other countries should think about the price of the sanctions against Roscosmos. According to Daily Mail, Roscosmos could send the ISS plummeting back to Earth by detaching the Russian part of the space station.