This week, news outlets (opens in new tab) reported that the head of Russia's Space Agency threatened to leave American astronaut Mark Vande Hei — the record-holder for the longest spaceflight — aboard the International Space Station (ISS) rather than allowing him to return to Earth on a Russian spacecraft. It turns out that the threat isn't true, Ars Technica reported (opens in new tab).
Vande Hei began his mission on April 9, 2021, and is scheduled to return to Earth on March 30, 2022, meaning he will have spent 355 consecutive days in Earth orbit, according to NASA (opens in new tab). The plan is for Vande Hei to land in Kazakhstan along with two Russian cosmonauts, Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov and Commander Anton Shkaplerov, aboard the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship, a Russian vessel.
However, after President Joe Biden instituted new sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, several news outlets reported that Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia's Space Agency, threatened to abandon Vande Hei on the ISS. This claim stems from a video posted Feb. 26 (opens in new tab), which was shared by a Kremlin-aligned publication, RIA Novosti, according to Ars Technica.
Roscosmos TV, the television station of the Russian Federal Space Agency, provided footage for the video but noted that the video was a "joke," Ars Technica reported. The same video also jokingly suggests that Russia might go so far as to detach its portion of the ISS from the American side of the space station, in addition to stranding Vande Hei.
On Friday (March 11), a NASA spokesperson assured The StarTribune (opens in new tab) that "On March 30, a Soyuz spacecraft will return as scheduled carrying NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov back to Earth."
And even if Rogozin's threat to leave Vande Hei on the station was legitimate — which it's not — American astronauts Raja Chari, Kayla Barron and Thomas Marshburn, as well as German astronaut Matthias Maurer are all on the ISS, too, Ars Technica reported. So in any case, Vande Hei would be able to catch another ride back to Earth.
Originally published on Live Science.