A record-breaking NASA astronaut and two cosmonauts will return to Earth early Wednesday (March 30), and you can watch their homecoming live.
A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA’s Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station Wednesday at 3:21 a.m. EDT (0721 GMT) and land back on Earth in the steppe of Kazakhstan, a vast open grassland, just over four hours later.
You can watch the return to Earth live here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA, or directly via the space agency. Coverage of the departing astronauts’ farewells, and the closure of the hatches connecting the Soyuz and the station, is set to begin Tuesday night (March 29) at 11:30 p.m. EDT (0330 GMT on March 30). Undocking coverage starts at 2:45 a.m. EDT (0645 GMT), and a landing stream will begin at 6:15 a.m. EDT (1015 GMT).
Photos: Building the International Space Station
Vande Hei is wrapping up a 355-day mission on the space station, the longest single stretch any American has ever spent in the final frontier. The previous record was held by NASA’s Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days aboard the orbiting lab from March 2015 to March 2016.
Dubrov is coming home after 355 days in space as well, but that’s not a Russian record. Valery Polyakov lived on the Russian space station Mir from January 1994 to March 1995, spending 437 consecutive days off Earth.
The world has changed a great deal as Vande Hei, Shkaplerov, Dubrov and their colleagues have circled it. For example, relations between Russia and the United States are much more strained now, thanks to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24.
NASA officials have insisted that International Space Station operations continue as usual despite the invasion and the economic sanctions that the United States and other nations have imposed on Russia in response. And the spaceflyers themselves have voiced sentiments that align with these ideals.
“People have problems on Earth. On orbit we are … one crew, like space brothers and sisters,” Shkaplerov said on Tuesday (March 29) during a change of command ceremony, which saw him hand the “keys” of the station over to NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.