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The family of the American astronaut cries for fear that their son will stay in space

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Watch: Former astronaut on speculation that Russia leaves an American astronaut in space

The family of an American astronaut have said they were in tears fearing Russia would leave him stranded in space.

NASA’s Mark Vande Hei will return to Earth aboard a Russian spacecraft, the International Space Station (ISS), on March 30.

In an emotional interview, Vande Hei’s mother, Mary, told the Mail on Sunday that she broke down in tears after Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, blasted over the ISS.

The 77-year-old said: “It’s a terrible threat. When I first heard it, I cried a lot. It is very troublesome. We’re just praying a lot.”

Ms. Vande Hei, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, added: “It’s really a shame that it’s been politicized in this way. It’s a shock. His wife, Julie, is very worried in Texas. It’s very difficult for her right now.”

Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, criticized the sanctions imposed by President Joe Biden and suggested that Vande Hei could be trapped in space.

See: Russia threatens to leave the United States in space

Rogozin said: “Do you want to destroy our cooperation on the ISS? If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled de-orbit and fall into the United States or Europe?

He repeated it in an exchange with retired US astronaut Scott Kelly where he wrote in a now-deleted tweet: “Get off you asshole! Otherwise, the death of the ISS will be on your conscience.”

But the astronaut’s father, Mr Vande Hei, 80, a retired information systems executive, said: “Our son is not easily frightened.”

He added: “These threats are only from one person speaking and although he is the head of the Russian space agency, all the other people within the space agency seem very cooperative.”

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has offered to send a rocket to rescue the American astronaut if the Russians leave him stranded.

NASA said it remains confident that Vande Hei will return as expected.

“The International Space Station team continues to conduct research operations safely in low Earth orbit,” a spokesman said.

“Ongoing station operations continue, including work to get the crew to the orbital outpost and return them safely to Earth.”


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