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NASA astronaut comes home to Houston after record-setting 355-day space mission

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei soon after landing in Houston, Texas after landing in Kazakstan from a nearly year-long mission in space.  (Image credit: NASA)

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is finally home.

Vande Hei, who lived in space for 355 consecutive days, setting a new record for the longest single spaceflight by an American astronaut, arrived in Houston at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) on Thursday (March 31) following a touchdown in Kazakhstan the day before.

"@Astro_Sabot returned back to Houston this morning, with his loved ones and fellow there to greet him. He landed back on Earth yesterday after spending 355 days orbiting the Earth," JSC tweeted later in the day.

Vande Hei and his two Russian crewmates, Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, landed safely in Kazakhstan aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on Wednesday (March 30). As per NASA protocol, Vande Hei was then flown back to Houston to start his recovery from living for nearly a year in microgravity.

Video: Astronaut Mark Vande Hei on his near-year in space
Related: Mission updates from the International Space Station

After the crew's arrival in Kazakhstan, they were carried to a medical tent and then flown by helicopter to Karaganda, a city in Kazakhstan. From there, Vande Hei was flown to Texas on a NASA jet. Now home, Vande Hei will have time to recover from the nearly year-long mission. 

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris shared her congratulations for Vande Hei on the historic, record-breaking feat shortly after his landing, writing on Twitter: "Congratulations on your historic journey and 355 days in space. Welcome home, @Astro_Sabot"

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Vande Hei's mission surpasses the previous single-spaceflight mark by a U.S. astronaut, which was Scott Kelly's 340-day excursion in 2015-16. The overall single-spaceflight record of nearly 438 continuous days is held by Russian cosmonaut Valery Poliyakov, who was on the Soviet-Russian Mir space station between 1994 and 1995.

Before Vande Hei touched down in Kazakhstan, some media outlets speculated he would not journey back to Earth aboard the Russian Soyuz as planned, given that the U.S. has condemned Russia's actions to invade Ukraine and numerous international space projects have been canceled as a result.

NASA has said, however, that relations in the International Space Station program remain unchanged and that Vande Hei would return home as planned, which has now successfully been completed.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for Space.com since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.