Nasa astronaut Mark Vande Hei has tied the US record for consecutive days in space, marking his 340th day aboard the International Space Station since he left Earth on 9 April, 2021.
He will go on to establish a new US record of 355 days by the time he returns to Earth as scheduled on 30 March.
The previous US record holder, former Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly, flew 340 days aboard the ISS through 1 March 2016.
A retired US army colonel, Col Vande Hei joined Nasa’s astronaut corps in 2009 and flew as a flight engineer on three previous ISS expeditions.
He was originally scheduled to return to Earth in October, but his mission was extended to make room for a Russian filmmaker and actress shooting portions of a movie on the space station.
Relations between Russia, the US, and much of the world have changed dramatically since Col Vande Hei launched to space nearly a year ago, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the subsequent wave of western sanctions, have put an end to nearly all space-related cooperation between Russia’s space agency and its western counterparts.
Col Vande Hei’s 30 March return trip being aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft along with two Russian cosmonauts, both Nasa and the Russian space agency made statements Tuesday affirming that Col Vande Hei would not be left aloft without a ticket home despite tensions between their respective countries.
While Col Vande Hei will set the new US record for consecutive days in space, the US record for total time in space remains held by astronaut Peggy Whitson, who collected 665 days in space.
The world records for consecutive and cumulative days in space belong to Russian cosmonauts, however.
Cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov flew for 437 consecutive days aboard the Russian Mir space station in 1994 and 1995, while Gennady Padalka holds the world record for cumulative days in space at 879 , having flown aboard both the Mir and ISS.