Russians to give American astronaut ride to Earth in spite of tensions

Mark Vande HeiImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The astronaut has spent 355 days in space

A US astronaut will now be returning to Earth, after fears his Russian lift home might not materialise.

It was originally thought Mark Vande Hei - who has been in space for 355 days - might be left behind on the ISS due to heightened tensions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

But it has been confirmed he will travel aboard a Russian capsule to Kazakhstan.

The American and two Russian cosmonauts will be brought back to Earth.

"I can tell you for sure Mark is coming home... We are in communication with our Russian colleagues. There's no fuzz on that," Joel Montalbano, Nasa's International Space Station (ISS) programme manager said.

He admitted the astronauts were "aware of what's going on" in the world, but they still work as a team.

Under international space law, astronauts from all nations must "provide all possible help" to other astronauts when needed, "including emergency landing in a foreign country or at sea".

Dmitry Rogozin, chief of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, had previously warned about sanctions causing technical issues to the ISS but Mr Montalbano said it had continued to run smoothly.

"All these activities have continued for 20 years and nothing has changed in the last three weeks. Our control centres operate successfully, flawlessly, seamlessly," he said.

The US controls power and life support aboard the ISS and Russia controls things such as its propulsion.

Earlier this month on Russian state TV, Mr Rogozin announced Roscosmos would halt rocket sales to the US in response to sanctions against Russia.

Mr Vande Hei, 55, has now made a new US record for the most time spent in space.