Astronaut’s Minnesotan parents breathe sigh of relief after return to earth

When the Russian Soyuz capsule landed in Kazakhstan Wednesday morning, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned to earth after nearly a year in space.

Now it's his parents who are over the moon about the end of their son's historic achievement.

"I'm relieved. Pleased. I guess you could almost say joyful," Mark's father Tom Vande Hei told FOX 9.

Vande Hei spent 355 days living in space – a record for a NASA astronaut – to help researchers study the effects of long-term space flight on the human body.

His parents say even though Mark experienced congestion and headaches on the International Space Station, his body seems to be getting used to gravity again while recovering in Houston. 

Mary and Tom Vande Hei, parents to NASA astronaut Mark who recently returned to earth. 

"He's walking around. He's moving his head back and forth. It's just when he bends over, he doesn't know if he's going to be able to get back up," said Tom Vande Hei.

The Vande Heis were concerned Mark could be stranded in space due to rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia.

But he re-assured them he would get his planned ride home during a recent face-to-face from space.

"He said 'Mom, what are you worried about? I said I'm worried they are not going to let you get on the Soyuz.' He burst out laughing. He said 'Mom, we're all good friends. It's not going to happen. really.'," said Mark's mother Mary Vande Hei.

The Vande Heis say Mark bulked up on the ISS to fight muscle loss, and they can't wait to wrap their arms around their oldest son now that he is out of orbit.

"Just get a chance to hug him. A real hug. Just get a chance to hug that new muscular body," said Mary Vande Hei.

The Vande Heis haven't seen Mark in person for two years because of the pandemic and his record-breaking trip to space. 

But they plan to remedy that by visiting him in Houston in the next couple of weeks.