An American astronaut aboard the International Space Station is set to return to earth with two Russian cosmonauts next month – but his trip home has been marred by uncertainty after a Vladimir Putin ally reportedly threatened to leave him behind.
The scheduled return to earth for US astronaut Mark Vande Hei was thrown into question after Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s Space Agency, made the threats in a Feb. 26 video that he posted to social media, ABC News reported.
Vande Hei’s warning came after President Joe Biden announced sanctions on Russia in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Biden said the sanctions would “degrade” Russia’s aerospace industry and space program, according to the report.
Vande Hei is been scheduled to touch down in Kazakhstan in about three weeks with his two Russian counterparts aboard a Russian spacecraft.
NASA hasn’t commented on Rogozin’s threats. But following Biden’s remarks, the space agency said “no changes are planned” between US and Russian cooperation at the International Space Station.
The US and Russia each operate separate sections of the station. American astronauts, especially before the emergence of SpaceX, relied on Russian spacecrafts for their missions.