Station Crew Busy Ahead of Thursday SpaceX Crew Launch
The next crew to launch to the International Space Station is counting down to liftoff this Thursday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They will be greeted less than 24 hours later by the seven Expedition 65 crew members residing aboard the orbiting lab.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour sits atop the Falcon 9 rocket at the launch pad ready to carry four Commercial Crew astronauts to the space station. The SpaceX Crew-2 quartet is comprised of Commander Shane Kimbrough and Pilot Megan McArthur, both NASA astronauts, and Mission Specialists Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency.
They are set to launch on Thursday at 6:11 a.m. EDT and dock to the Harmony module’s forward-facing international docking adapter at 5:30 a.m. on Friday. NASA TV will broadcast the Crew-2 mission continuously from launch to docking beginning Thursday at 2 a.m.
There is still plenty of research and maintenance occurring on the station as NASA and SpaceX gear up for this Thursday’s launch. Walker serviced the Human Research Facility rack and updated software on the KERMIT microscope that can be operated by station astronauts or scientists on the ground. Hopkins swapped fuel canisters inside the Combustion Integrated Rack.
Vande Hei and Glover worked throughout Monday cleaning ventilation systems and crew quarters. Noguchi transferred oxygen to tanks inside the U.S. Quest airlock. Novitskiy and Dubrov, the two cosmonauts, worked on Soyuz crew ship cargo transfers and lab familiarization activities.
Expedition 64 Trio Back On Earth After 185-Day Mission
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos landed on Earth at 12:55 a.m. EDT Saturday, April 17 in Kazakhstan. The trio departed the International Space Station in their Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft at 9:34 p.m.
After post-landing medical checks, the crew will split up with Rubins returning to her home in Houston, while the cosmonauts fly back to their training base in Star City, Russia.
Later this month, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 members – NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet – will join the Expedition 65 members aboard the station. Crew-2 will be the second long-duration mission to fly as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, continuing to provide the capability of regularly launching humans from American soil.
In November 2020, the International Space Station surpassed a 20-year milestone of continuous human presence, providing opportunities for unique technological demonstrations and research that help prepare for long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars while also improving life on Earth. To date, 243 people from 19 countries have visited the orbiting laboratory that has hosted nearly 3,000 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas.
NASA TV is Live Covering the Return of Expedition 64
NASA Television and the agency’s website are now broadcasting live coverage of the return to Earth of NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft carrying the trio will make its deorbit burn to set the spaceship on its re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere for a landing in Kazakhstan at 12:56 a.m. (10:56 a.m. Kazakhstan time) Saturday, April 17.
During the 185-day mission, Rubins spent hundreds of hours working on new space station experiments, building on investigations she conducted during her first mission, including heart research and multiple microbiology studies. She advanced her work in DNA sequencing, which could allow astronauts to diagnose an illness in space or identify microbes growing at the space station. Rubins collected hundreds of microbial samples at different locations within the space station for the 3DMM study to construct a 3D map of bacteria and bacterial products throughout the station. By advancing understanding of the orbiting laboratory’s microbiome, this work helps identify potential risks and supports developing countermeasures to mitigate those risks.
Rubins also worked on the Cardinal Heart experiment, which studies how changes in gravity affect cardiovascular cells at the cellular and tissue levels. Results could provide new understanding of heart problems on Earth, help identify new treatments, and support development of screening measures to predict cardiovascular risk prior to spaceflight.
The Soyuz spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station at 9:34 p.m. EDT, carrying three people back to Earth. NASA Television will air live coverage beginning at 11:30 p.m. for the deorbit burn and the spacecraft’s parachute-assisted landing at 12:56 a.m. (10:56 a.m. Kazakhstan time) Saturday, April 17.
Rubins, Ryzhikov, and Kud-Sverchkov’s mission began Oct. 14, 2020, when their spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Their spacecraft docked to the Earth-facing port of the Rassvet module after a two-orbit, three-hour flight.
Expedition 65 officially began at the time of undocking with NASA astronaut Shannon Walker serving as station commander. Walker will lead the crew until the departure of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Resilience on Wednesday, April 28, when command of the station will be handed over to JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide.
NASA TV Broadcasts Expedition 64 Crew Departing Station
NASA is providing live coverage on NASA TV and its website of the undocking and departure from the International Space Station of the Soyuz spacecraft that will return NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos to Earth.
The three crew members are concluding a 185-day mission spanning 2,960 orbits of Earth and 78.4 million miles. Rubins is completing her second flight, with 300 cumulative days in space. Ryzhikov is completing his second spaceflight, with 358 cumulative days. This was Kud-Sverchkov’s first spaceflight.
During their mission, Rubins and her crewmates welcomed NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts aboard the first long-duration commercial crew spaceflight. Rubins completed two spacewalks alongside NASA astronaut Victor Glover and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, bringing her career total to four spacewalks. She returns to Earth with a total of 300 days across her two flights, the fourth most days in space by a U.S. female astronaut.