WASHINGTON – A NASA astronaut who traveled to the International Space Station in April could spend up to a year at the station, a long stay he said he was “excited” about.
NASA announced on March 9 that Mark Vande she was flying on the Soyuz MS-18 mission to the space stationIt will be launched on April 9th. It will fly with astronauts Roscosmos Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov.
In a typical mission scenario, the three would stay in the station for six months, returning after the next crew arrived aboard the Soyuz MS-19 in October. However, Roscosmos officials discussed filming on the station in October, sending director Klim Shepenko and an actress to be selected during an ongoing competition on Soyuz MS-19 along with Commander Anton Shkaplerov. Shipenko and the actress will return on the Soyuz MS-18 with Novitsky, the commander of that mission, requiring Dubrov and Fandy to remain at the station until late April 2022, when the next Soyuz crew rotation mission begins.
Vande Hei admitted, in a call to reporters on March 15th, that he might stay at the station for more than six months. “It all depends on whether these tourists will board the spacecraft in the fall, because they will take my seat back,” he said.
He said he welcomes the opportunity for an extended stay on the International Space Station. “Honestly, it’s just a chance to experience a new life. I’m really excited about that,” he said, referring to his first mission to the International Space Station, which lasted from September 2017 until February 2018.
This uncertain duration is not the only unusual aspect of the mission. NASA acquired the seat not by purchasing it directly from Roscosmos, as it has done in the past, but instead through an exchange with commercial spaceflight company Axiom Space, which acquired the seat from Roscosmos in a deal neither Roscosmos nor Axiom disclosed. Axiom will get a seat on a NASA commercial crew mission to the International Space Station, likely in 2023, in exchange for a Soyuz seat.
Vandy Hee said he was not involved in the seat negotiations. “I’m sure it was a very complex and difficult thing to operate. I know a lot of effort went into making it happen,” he said. “I’m really happy that it worked the way it did, and I’m also very happy that I didn’t have to deal with all of these details.”
Vande Hei began training last year as a backup for Kate Rubins, a NASA astronaut who traveled to the station on the Soyuz MS-17 mission last October, then “flushed directly” to train the Soyuz MS-18. “The only thing that was not certain is whether or not I really started as a result of the training,” he said.
Roscosmos originally announced that Sergey Korsakov will accompany Nowitzki and Dubrov on the Soyuz MS-18. He said Vande has been training with these three for months, knowing that only three of the four will fly. He said, “We were prepared for any emergency.”
Due to this uncertainty, he said he was managing his expectations about whether to start. He said, “I was trying not to be too emotional, too excited about the fact that I might start in April.” “I realized I was only doing this when I got so excited when it was actually finished.”
Roscosmos went even further to make two versions of the Soyuz MS-18 mission patch, one of them named Vande Hei – Seen in February in photos of training activities by Nowitzki and Dubrov – And one by the name of Korsakov. At a friend’s show, Vande Hei said he wore the patch version named Korsakov while Korsakov wore the Vande Hei patch. Of Korsakov, he said: “I will always consider him part of our team.”
Russian media reported that the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) is considering assigning Korsakov a future Crew Dragon mission once NASA and Roscosmos reach an agreement on an exchange of seats between Soyuz and commercial crew vehicles.