Around the world in 353 days
Human Race: U.S. astronaut sets record for time in space with 5,680 trips around the Earth
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Mark Vande Hei, 55, beat the U.S. record for the longest stint in space by 15 days after he and Russian astronauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov emerged from a Russian capsule in Kazakhstan on March 30. NASA doctors examined Vande Hei before taking him back to Houston. Vande Hei and Dubrov launched in April 2021 from Kazakhstan and orbited Earth 5,680 times on the International Space Station. He performed experiments on everything from muscle loss to growing chili peppers. Shkaplerov joined Vande Hei and Dubrov on the ISS in October, escorting a Russian film crew to make the first movie filmed in space. To accommodate that visit, Vande Hei and Dubrov doubled the length of their stay. He avoided talking about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying in space they are all one crew. NASA plans to study the effects of prolonged time in space on the body, collecting data for missions to the moon and Mars.
Free to speak
In a unanimous ruling on March 30, the Helsinki District Court dismissed charges against politician Päivi Räsänen and Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola for expressing their Biblical beliefs about homosexuality. Räsänen, a longtime member of Finnish Parliament and former interior minister, faced three criminal charges for supposed “hate speech” related to comments she made in a 2019 tweet, on a nationally syndicated radio program, and in a 23-page booklet, which she authored and Pohjola published. But the district court concluded it was not its job “to interpret Biblical concepts.” The court ordered the state prosecutor to pay more than 60,000 euros in legal costs. Räsänen, who is being represented by Alliance Defending Freedom International, expressed relief but expects the prosecutor will appeal. She said she is “ready to defend freedom of speech and religion in all necessary courts, also in the European Court of Human Rights.”
Requiem for Hillsong
Australia-based Hillsong Church lost nine of its 16 American campuses in February, The New York Times reported, as pastors severed ties with the organization. Hillsong Atlanta lead pastor Sam Collier pulled out last week after a Discovery+ documentary investigating Hillsong scandals was released. Terry and Judith Crist, lead pastors in Phoenix and Las Vegas, announced they were also leaving and taking their congregations with them. Crist oversees six churches and plans to place non-Hillsong pastors in the pulpits. Last week, Hillsong co-founder Brian Houston resigned amid allegations of improper actions toward women and a legal case in which he’s accused of hiding his father’s sexual misconduct. Terry Crist told his congregation Sunday that he has lost confidence in the global board, citing demands that pastors sign nondisclosure and noncompete agreements. In recent weeks, new reports claim an internal Hillsong investigation found rape accusations against Hillsong Dallas leader Reed Bogard from when he was a Hillsong staffer in New York City. Bogard abruptly resigned last year under accusations of misappropriating church funds.