Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveyev and Sergey Korsakov were surprised by the controversy over their spacesuits, Vande He said.
“It just so happened that the three were connected to the same university, and I think they were kind of surprised by it,” he told a news conference.
Vande Hei said he was not shy about discussing the war with his fellow International Space Station crew.
“The discussions weren’t very long, but I asked them how they felt and sometimes asked specific questions, but our focus was on our mission together.”
His return from the International Space Station was highly anticipated and drew unprecedented attention due to the escalating geopolitical tensions fueled by the head of the Russian Space Agency, Dmitry Rogozin, who made several fiery posts on social media directed at the United States.
This included Rogozin’s retweet of a partially animated video that appeared to threaten Russian cosmonauts to abandon Vande Hee in space. Rogozin also engaged in a Twitter altercation with retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who held the record for the longest time an American astronaut in space until Vandy Hee surpassed him.
Vande Hei said he heard about the tweets from his wife. “I’ve never really understood those tweets as something to be taken seriously,” he said, adding that he saw the tweets target a “different audience” other than him.
He said, “I just didn’t spend a lot of emotional energy caring for her. I heard about her. I kind of laughed at her and moved on.”
NASA said, “The professional relationship between our international partners, astronauts, and astronauts continues for the safety and mission of all aboard the International Space Station.”
Russian crewmates “Dear Friends”
Vandy He declined to reveal how the Russians on board felt about the invasion of Ukraine. “These are things that I’d rather share directly with them than have them feel about it,” he said.
He said the invasion itself was “heartbreaking, very sad” and he felt “helpless” in learning about it during his stay in space. Vande Hei said that did not change his feelings for his fellow Russians.
“They were, are, and will continue to be my dear friends. We supported each other in everything. I had no qualms about being able to continue working with them.”
Upon landing after his record-breaking mission, Vande Hei said he was able to walk after about eight hours, though he said he was wobbly.
He was also happy to sip some guacamole for the first time in a year, he said, and was shocked by the natural feeling of returning to Earth after a long time in space.
“It’s a little disappointing how normal it is.”
CNN’s Rachel Crane and Ross Levitt contributed to this report.
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