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 life-long 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 highlights reel of a mission that lasted more than 8,500 hours and involved 5,680 orbits of Earth. Besides the thrill of living in space, Vande Hei worked on countless science experiments, dabbled in Earth photography, and even found time for a space dance. But sadly for the astronaut, an opportunity for a spacewalk had to be abandoned when a trapped nerve in his neck meant his place was taken by a crewmate (luckily he can enjoy the memories of four spacewalks he did on a mission five years ago).
Speaking recently about his record-breaking mission, Vande Hei said the most memorable parts were “the times when I was just hanging around, usually at mealtime with my crewmates and laughing so hard we were in tears about some comment that somebody made.”
Pondering the lows, 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 just feel very physically uncomfortable. Those are probably the low points, it colors everything you’re doing, it takes a lot more work to stay in the right frame of mind in those situations.”
Looking back at a mission that was just 10 days short of a full year, Vande Hei commented: “I always thought being an astronaut would be an amazing thing, never thought it would be real possibility, but the thing that always inspired me about it was this idea that we get to explore and do it in a way that benefits all of humanity.”
While most astronauts stay aboard the station for around six months, Vande Hei’s extended presence in space gives NASA scientists a unique opportunity to learn from his experience as they continue to plan for long-duration crewed missions to the moon and Mars.