NASA Astronaut Breaks Record for Longest Spaceflight by an American

by Victoria Santiago
(Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei has officially broken the record for the most consecutive days in space by an American explorer. He launched into space on April 9, 2021. He’s expected to return home on March 30, 2022. In total, he will spend 355 days in low-Earth orbit at the ISS. By spending almost a full year in space, Vande Hei will break the previous US record by 15 days. The previous record was set by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly in 2013.

At a Glance

  • Mark Vande Hei will spend a total of 355 days in space before returning to Earth.
  • The world record belongs to Russia, with 438 days in space.
  • Russia’s space agency had previously threatened to leave Vande Hei at the ISS.

NASA Astronaut Set To Land In Kazakhstan After Breaking Record

The 55-year-old retired Army colonel will return to Earth with two Russian cosmonauts at the end of this month. NASA’s space station program manager Joel Montalbano said that the Russian Space Agency has confirmed that it’s ready to bring all three of them back. They’ll touch down in Kazakhstan, aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule.

Then, a NASA plane and a small team will be waiting to bring Mark Vande Hei back home to Houston, TX.

This news surely comes as a relief to Vande Hei’s family. The head of Russia’s space agency had previously threatened to leave the NASA astronaut at the ISS. He had also made threats to have the ISS taken out of space.

The US and Russia are the two main operators of the International Space Station (ISS), which has been permanently occupied for 21 years. NASA is hoping to keep the ISS running until 2030 at least, according to Fox News. At this time, Russia has not yet committed beyond the original end date of 2024. If Russia decides to remove its part of the space station, the ISS will come crashing down to Earth.

Whenever the ISS gets decommissioned, we won’t have to worry about a potential impact. The ISS will land in the South Pacific Ocean.

Mark Vande Hei Didn’t Expect To Be In Space For So Long

This record-breaking space trip was news to Mark Vande Hei. The accomplished astronaut didn’t know exactly how long he’d be spending at the ISS – but he’s happy that he went up there.

“I didn’t know with certainty that the flight would be this long when I launched, but I certainly knew that it was a possibility,” Vande Hei said. “I felt like it was an opportunity to fill a need that we had, and I was very happy to be able to fill it.”

“If they said I needed to stay up longer, I would happily stay up longer, but I would not volunteer to stay up longer,” Vande Hei added.

Vande Hei spent a long time in space, but the world record has him beat by almost 100 days. In 1995, Cosmonaut Valery Polyakov flew the longest space mission in history, with 438 continuous days in space.