What was it like to spend 355 days on the International Space Station

  • Mark T. Vande Hee, 55, is a NASA astronaut who spent a 12 months in area orbiting the Earth.
  • He simply got here again, he did not anticipate his time period to final 355 days, however he was ready for it.
  • He mentioned his days included conferences and experiments. On the weekends, they’d a film evening.

This directed article is predicated on a dialog with Mark T. Vande Hee, a 55-year-old NASA astronaut. Edited for size and readability.

Earlier than working for NASA, I graduated with a grasp’s diploma in utilized physics from Stanford College and was a professor of physics at West Level. Someday throughout my lengthy profession within the US Military, a senior Military astronaut got here to the Military Area Operations Convention in search of somebody to work within the Astronaut Workplace as a part of an settlement to broaden the Military’s area operations officer expertise base.

I accomplished my coaching to grow to be an astronaut at NASA in 2011. In March, I returned to Earth after spending 355 days in orbit aboard the Worldwide Area Station. I’m formally the American who has spent most consecutive days off our planet.

Earlier than our launch, there was quite a lot of uncertainty about how lengthy the spaceflight would take. At first, they instructed me it might last as long as 355 days, however that did not grow to be official till about midway by the flight. Since my spouse and I knew it was a risk, we deliberate my keep away all this time. My earlier spaceflight took about six months, so I noticed this longest and final spaceflight as a singular sort of problem.

The flight to the Worldwide Area Station on Soyuz was surprisingly clean. Though watching the launch from Earth entails quite a lot of gentle and noise, on the spacecraft itself, you go so quick that you simply depart all that noise behind. The dominant sound was the hum of the pumps pushing gas out from the rear finish.

Whenever you first arrive on the Worldwide Area Station, it takes a while to regulate to the truth that the room you are in is consistently falling towards Earth.

(L to R) Vande Hei with Shane Kimbrough, Akihiko Hoshide and Megan McArthur, pose with a space-grown chile pepper for the first time aboard the International Space Station.

Left to Proper: Vande Hei with Shane Kimbrough, Akihiko Hoshide and Megan McArthur, pose with space-grown chile peppers for the primary time aboard the Worldwide Area Station.


You shortly understand that on Earth, there are quite a lot of stuff you do day by day that do not require aware effort. So if you’re in orbit, it’s important to relearn methods to do it. For instance, if you don’t take note of the procedures for methods to go to the toilet, chances are you’ll find yourself in a messy state of affairs. Whenever you’re sitting at your laptop computer, it is all the time vital to in some way get your ft on the ground, or else you will simply float on the ceiling.

The Worldwide Area Station is concerning the measurement of a six-bedroom home, however you’ll be able to go days with out seeing one in every of your six or seven roommates. Principally, the Worldwide Area Station is inbuilt components, and every half or unit could be remoted and shut down within the occasion of an emergency. On this newest flight, the Russians added two new modules, so the Worldwide Area Station now seems to be extra like a seven-bedroom house.

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Vande Hei uses an electric razor with a vacuum cleaner to collect the hairs he cuts off fellow NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn.

Vande Hei makes use of an electrical razor with a vacuum cleaner to gather the hairs he cuts off fellow NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn.


We’re scheduled to get up and have breakfast earlier than 7:30 a.m. Every day Planning Convention. In these classes, we take a look at all the bottom management groups in Japan, Russia, Europe and the US. In the course of the day you have got one hour for lunch, then two and a half hours for train – on the boat we’ve got a resistance exerciser, a stationary bike, and a treadmill. Our our bodies are properly tailored to buoyancy, so you will need to train to maintain our energy and bone density at a wholesome degree. We spend most of our days finishing numerous duties assigned to us by the groups on the bottom.

In our crew desk, there’s a row with every astronaut’s title and a horizontal line that strikes ahead slowly all through the day. It guides us on what we’re alleged to be engaged on and helps us keep heading in the right direction. My favourite half is after I work with different astronauts, however we frequently have separate missions. Should you occur to see progress in your work, you’ll be able to go assist another person, which is all the time good.

Throughout this final journey, he helped us carry out lots of of experiments Whether or not it occurs behind the boards or at ourselves

Vande Hei conducts operations for the Plant Habitat-5 space farming experiment that studies cotton genetics.

Vande Hei conducts operations for the Plant Habitat-5 area farming experiment that research cotton genetics.


I see my function as a lab technician slightly than a scientist as a result of I make it simpler for experiments to succeed than to put in writing down or analyze information or write stories.

Surprisingly, there are so few “specialists” throughout the onboard crew. With the size of the journey, we realized that being a generalist is vital as a result of usually occasions the plan will change throughout our time there. So that you usually want individuals who can do quite a lot of duties successfully.

Aside from conferences, experiments, and upkeep across the station, spacewalks take up the remainder of the day

Vande Hei during a spacewalk to serve components on the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

Vande Hei throughout a spacewalk to serve parts on the Canadarm2 robotic arm.


For instance, we’ve got upgraded and added the photo voltaic arrays situated exterior the Worldwide Area Station. The Worldwide Area Station is powered by photo voltaic vitality, so it can be crucial that we’ve got fixed energy. Though I did not exit on a spaceflight myself throughout this final flight as a result of a pinched nerve in my neck, it has occurred previously.

Being in area is like falling down in the direction of the planet, the place you and all the pieces round you fall on the similar price, and the wind would not intervene. That is precisely what’s in orbit.

In the course of the week, the workday continues till about 7:15 p.m., after we’re accomplished with one other planning assembly.

On weekends we normally get off, aside from about 3 hours of cleansing the home – I like to inform college children that

Each Friday or Saturday we had dinner for the entire crew, then on Sundays we would all watch a film collectively. Every week, a special astronaut had to decide on which one he needed: one in every of my picks was “Yesterday” with all of the Beatles songs.

Vande Hei gazes at the earth below from inside the seven-windowed dome, the International Space Station's window to the world.

Vande Hei gazes on the earth beneath from contained in the seven-windowed dome, the Worldwide Area Station’s window to the world.


In the course of the journey, I talked to my spouse day by day, and I normally talked to my children each weekend. I managed to reconnect with a number of relations, too. It’s a very cool state of affairs if you name somebody and they’re shocked by the truth that you might be speaking to them from outer area. Additionally, I began meditating day by day, and as a rule, I might do it sitting within the window planet Earth.

I nonetheless really feel fairly suffocated fascinated with it. It’s a actually distinctive expertise.