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Mark Vande Hei returns to Earth after record-setting stay on the ISS

After almost a year in space, the astronaut and Twin Cities native returned from orbit Wednesday morning along with two Russian cosmonauts.

MINNEAPOLIS — After 355 days in space, astronaut Mark Vande Hei came back down to Earth Wednesday morning. 

The Twin Cities native and St. John's University grad broke the record held by former astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent 340 consecutive days in space. Vande Hei first arrived at the International Space Station on April 9, 2021. 

There were some concerns about Vande Hei's safe return when reports circulated that Russia was threatening to only bring back his two cosmonaut crewmates, leaving the American stranded on the ISS. 

Fortunately, NASA was able to broker a deal for his return flight to Earth. 

As the crew prepared to disembark, there was a ceremony to transfer the command of the ISS from Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov to American astronaut Thomas Mashburn. On Tuesday, Shkaplerov handed over the "The Keys" in a peaceful transition of power. 

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The three landed in Kazakhstan, where they'll part ways. Vande Hei plans to return to his home in Houston, and the cosmonauts will return to the Russian training base in Star City. 

According to CNN, the crew completed nearly 5,700 orbits of Earth, and traveled more than 150 million miles around our planet.

NASA plans to study the effects of the extended space voyage on Vande Hei's body, and use that information to better prepare future crews for trips to the Moon and beyond. 

When KARE 11 spoke with Vande Hei earlier in March, he said he was most looking forward to being outside and feeling the rain again. 

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