Record-breaking Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov transferred the International Space Station (ISS) command to NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn in a ceremony aboard the orbiting lab. Shkaplerov departed the station together with NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, and fellow Russian cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov.
The trio returned aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and landed back on Earth in a vast open grassland in the Kazakhstan steppes on March 30, even as the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its second month.
Vande Hei holds the record for the longest single period any American has spent on the space station, 355 days. Scott Kelly held the previous record of 340 days, between March 2015 and March 2016.
Dubrov returned home after spending 355 days in space, but that is not a Russian record because Valery Polyakov lived 437 days on a Russian space station Mir between January 1994 and March 1995.
Shkaplerov served as the commander of Expedition 66 aboard the space station beginning on November 6, 2021, after launching on October 5, with actor Yulia Pereslid and Russian film director Klim Shipenko. He returned to Earth on March 30, 2022, with Dubrov and Vande Hei.
Russian military destroyed a defunct Soviet satellite in 2021 when they conducted an anti-satellite missile test, producing debris fragments. The space station crew had to duck and cover because it was so close to the ISS’s orbit. No one was hurt.
During the ceremony, Shkaplerov joked with Marshburn saying:
Some satellites tried to kill us but we worked together very hard.
Shkaplerov’s heartfelt sentiment was about the all-time high tension about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The space station remained harmonious despite U.S. President Joe Biden and other international leaders’ condemnation of the invasion. As Shkaplerov handed the keys, he said:
People have problems on Earth. In orbit, we are one crew. I think the ISS is a symbol of friendship and cooperation, as a symbol of the future exploration of space.
Since Dubrov, Vande Hei, Shkaplerov, and their colleagues orbited the Earth, the world had changed. One example is the strained relationship between the United States and Russia since the onset of the ongoing Russian-Ukraine war.
However, NASA officials insisted that the operations in the ISS will continue despite the invasion and economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and other nations.
Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
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Head Topics: Russian cosmonaut hands over space station command as NASA astronaut bids farewell
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of NASA Johnson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Mat Hampson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License