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US astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned to Earth on Wednesday with his two Russian colleagues, astronauts Anton Skaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov. 

Mark Vande Hi, a NASA cosmonaut spent 355 days in space, more than any other American cosmonaut in a row (the previous record was held by astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent about 340 days in space.) While this is newsworthy in itself, what makes it interesting is the war in Ukraine, where the American cosmonaut spent more time in space with two Russian cosmonauts was on its way a Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft from the International Space Station.

The invasion of Ukraine has also affected Russian-US space cooperation. At the outbreak of the war, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos appointed in 2018, indirectly noted in response to US sanctions that the International Space Station was currently being kept in orbit by Russian rockets, and that later the European Space Agency (ESA) announcedto postpone the ExoMars mission with Russia, in which the US space agency is participating. Meanwhile, the Russian space agency Roscosmos has announced that it is withdrawing its staff from the European spaceport in French Guiana.

Scientific cooperation between the two countries is far from uninterrupted, but it is still perhaps the area least affected by the sanctions. As NASA has pointed out, the ISS has everything in place for smooth scientific cooperation, and the future of the space station is not at stake.

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