US Astronaut, Russian Cosmonauts Return To Earth Amid Ukraine Tensions

FOUR MILLION REFUGEES HAVE NOW FLED UKRAINE. THAT IS NEARLY 1/10 OF THE ENTIRE POPULATION. >> Reporter: THIS MORNING AN AMERICAN ASTRONAUT WHO SPENT NEARLY A YEAR IN SPACE AND TWO OF HIS RUSSIAN COUNTERPARTS TOUCHED DOWN IN KAZAKHSTAN. THEY HAVE BEEN TOGETHER IN THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION. WHILE HERE ON EARTH RUSSIA AND THE U.S. HAVE BEEN AT ODDS OVER THE WAR IN UKRAINE. NBC’S SAM BROCK HAS MORE ON THAT COMPLICATED SITUATION. HEY SAM, GOOD MORNING. >> HODA, GOOD MORNING. WHAT AN INCREDIBLE SIGHT. SPACE MIGHT BE THE FINAL FRONT TEAR BUT RIGHT NOW ONE OF THE FEW POSITIVE TIES BINDING THE UNITED STATES AND RUSSIA IN THIS PERILOUS TIME IN OUR COLLECTIVE HISTORY. MINUTES AGO THOSE THREE MEN TOUCHING DOWN IN A RUSSIAN SOYU TOUCHING DOWN IN A RUSSIAN SOYU CAPSULE IN A REMOTE PORT OF KAZAKHSTAN. >> THANK YOU VERY MUCH MY CREW MEMBERS. LIKE MY SPACE BROTHERS AND SISTER. >> 200 MILES ABOVE THE EARTH’S SURFACE IS ARGUABLY THE ONLY SPACE THE U.S. AND RUSSIA ARE STILL CURRENTLY FINDING COMMON GROUND. OVERNIGHT AMERICAN ASTRONAUT MARK VANDE HEI LEAVING THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION AFTER 355 CONSECUTIVE DAYS IN SPACE, A NEW AMERICAN RECORD. HE RETURNED WITH TWO RUSSIAN COSMONAUTS ABOARD A RUSSIAN SOYU CAPSULE. THE RETURN TO EARTH COMING WEEKS AFTER RUSSIA’S INVASION OF UKRAINE. BUT TENSIONS ON THE GROUND SO FAR HAVE NOT SEEMED TO UNDERMINE CAMARADERIE AND COMMITMENT TO SCIENCE ON THE SPACE STATION. >> WE ARE ONE CREW. AND I THINK LIKE SYMBOL OF THE FRIENDSHIP AND COOPERATION. >> Reporter: BUT THE HEAD OF RURK’S SPACE AGENCY HAS INFLAMED RELATIONS WITH THREATS, RECENTLY SUGGESTING RUSSIA COULD LET THE SPACE STATION CRASH DOWN EARTH. PROMPTING FORMER SPACE STATION COMMANDER SCOTT KELLY TO STRIKE BACK ON TWITTER BEFORE HEEDING NASA’S PLEAS NOT TO FAN THE FLAMES. >> SEPARATE WITH WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE WORLD WITH RELYING ON ONE ANOTHER FOR SURVIVAL. >> IN WAYS YOU RECOGNIZE WE’RE HERE. THERE’S EARTH. WE HAVE STUFF IMPORTANT TO US. OUR EMOTIONAL SUPPORT, FRIENDSHIP, WORKING TOGETHER BUT ALSO LITERALLY, YOU KNOW, RELYING ON EACH OTHER FOR OUR LIVES. >> Reporter: NASA’S DEPENDENCY ON RUSSIA HAS WANED IN RECENT YEARS, THANKS TO THE EXPANSION OF COMMERCIAL SPACE FLIGHT. WITH SPACEX NOW SERVING AS A SPACE AGENCY’S PRIMARY CARRIER. THE CURRENT ISS AGREEMENT INVOLVING FIVE SPACE AGENCIES EXPIRES IN TO 2024. SO FAR RUSSIA HAS YET TO EXTEND ITS ROLE. IN A STATEMENT TO NBC NEWS, NASA SAYS IT CONTINUES WORKING WITH ALL OUR INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS. NOW, EARLIER THIS MONTH A TRIO OF RUSSIAN COSMONAUTS MADE HEADLINES ARRIVING AT THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION WITH YELLOW AND BLUE ON THE SPACE SUITS. YELLOW AND BLUE OF COURSE THE COLORS OF THE UKRAINIAN FLAG. NOW, THE RUSSIAN SPACE AGENCY DENIES ANY CONNECTION TO UKRAINE.

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