NASA has shared a video celebrating Mark Vande Hei’s record-breaking stay in space.
The astronaut returned to Earth on Saturday after 355 days aboard the International Space Station — the longest single mission by an American astronaut.
355 days of science, reflection and lifelong friendships. A look back at NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei’s record-breaking mission. pic.twitter.com/j9vgZIXYHU
— International Space Station (@Space_Station) March 30, 2022
The two-minute video is a culmination of a mission that lasted more than 8,500 hours and included 5,680 orbits. Besides the thrill of living in space, Vande Hei worked on countless scientific experiments, dabbled in earth photography and even found time for a space dance. But unfortunately for the astronaut, a spacewalk opportunity had to be given up when a pinched nerve in his neck meant his place was taken by a crew member (thankfully he can enjoy memories of four spacewalks he did five years ago made on a mission).
Speaking recently about his record-breaking mission, Vande Hei said the most memorable parts are “the times I just hung out, usually over dinner with my crewmates, and laughed so hard we laughed at a comment someone made in tears broke out.”
Reflecting on the low points, the 55-year-old astronaut said the microgravity conditions create “a challenging environment… I’ve had a lot of congestion and headaches… times when you’re just really physically uncomfortable. Those are probably the low points, it colors everything you do, it takes a lot more work to stay in the right frame of mind in situations like this.”
Looking back on a mission that was just 10 days away from a full year, Vande Hei commented, “I always thought being an astronaut was an amazing thing, never thought it was a real possibility but the what always inspired me to do this was this idea that we can explore and implement in a way that will benefit all of humanity.”
While most astronauts stay aboard the station for about six months, Vande Hei’s extended presence in space offers NASA scientists a unique opportunity to learn from his experience as they continue to plan long-term human missions to the Moon and Mars.
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