Vice President Kamala Harris congratulated NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei on his record-breaking 355-day stay in space, which ended when he returned to Earth late last month.
“I hope you know and feel that our nation, our planet, is so grateful to you for your years of dedicated service, certainly to our country,” Harris told Vande Hei in an April 6 phone call that was shown in a video. that the vice president’s office posted online Monday. “Welcome to the house.”
Vande Hei’s highly anticipated return – in part because of its length – has drawn even more attention due to growing geopolitical tensions since Russia invaded Ukraine while living with Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station. Vande Hei returned to Earth with two Russian cosmonauts on a Soviet-era spacecraft.
On Earth, the dynamic between the United States and Russia has changed dramatically since Vande Hei first launched in April 2021 to the space station. Tensions between the United States and Russia turned frosty as the Russians prepared and finally launched an invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.
Prior to Vande Hei’s return, there were brief concerns that the Russians might abandon the astronaut in space, after Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin shared a heavily edited video showing two Russian cosmonauts floating inside the space station while saying goodbye to Vande Hei. NASA has repeatedly reaffirmed that it continues to work closely with the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
Last week, Harris – who chairs the National Space Council – announced that the Biden administration would implement a self-imposed ban on anti-satellite weapons testing in a bid to encourage more responsible behavior in the world. space. The move came five months after the successful test of a Russian land-based missile, which hit an old Soviet-era satellite.
The collision created a massive cloud of debris with more than 1,500 traceable pieces, according to US Space Command, and threatened the safety of astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
A White House official highlighted the contributions Vande Hei has made in space and those he will continue to make on Earth. The official said: “Vande Hei will continue to provide NASA scientists and physicians with more information to better understand whether long-term human spaceflight makes astronauts more susceptible to injury upon return to Earth. The results will also help NASA design protective measures in future spacecraft.”
The astronaut told Harris he thought the whole experience was a privilege.
“It was truly a privilege to have the opportunity to be in space for so long,” Vande Hei said. “So thank you to the country for making this possible.”
“You were there looking for discovery, looking for science, looking for innovation,” Harris said, asking how his journey will help astronauts understand what it takes for the human body to travel to other planets like the moon and Mars.
“We have been to the moon but we have never stayed there. We’ve been on board in orbit for over 20 years, so we know how to stay in space. We don’t yet know how to use the resources of another planetary object like the Moon,” Vande Hei said. “Hopefully the record the team has set with my flight is something that will be broken soon enough as we understand better and better how to keep a human being healthy and able to function when traveling. somewhere else.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when the call took place. It took place on April 6.