Four astronauts aboard the International Space Station are preparing to return to Earth in a few days. The Expedition 65 orbital residents are also conducting space science while preparing to send off a Russian cargo craft.
There are two four-member SpaceX crews aboard the station today including a three-member Soyuz crew. The four SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts are turning their attention to returning to Earth this week after being in space since Nov. 16.
Crew-1 commander Michael Hopkins joined Pilot Victor Glover and Mission Specialists Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi for a conference with mission managers on the ground today. The quartet is working on the proper time to undock the Crew Dragon Resilience from the station and splashdown off the coast of Florida this week.
The station’s newest Crew-2 astronauts are in their first week aboard the station and getting used to life on orbit. Crew Dragon Endeavour commander Shane Kimbrough along with Pilot Megan McArthur and Mission Specialists Thomas Pesquet and Akihiko Hoshide docked to the station on Saturday at 5:08 a.m. EDT to begin a six-month space research mission.
As the Crew-2 Dragon was heading for the space station about 1 p.m. Friday, the NASA/SpaceX team was informed that a piece of unidentified space debris might pass close to the Dragon spacecraft. U.S. Space Command, which tracks orbital debris (or space junk), informed the team that the closest approach to dragon would be at 1:43 p.m. Since there wasn’t time to compute and execute a debris avoidance maneuver with confidence, the SpaceX team elected to have the crew put on their pressure suits as part of standard safety protocols. Upon further analysis, the command’s 18th Space Control Squadron determined the object was a false report, and there was never a collision threat to the Crew-Dragon. The crew successfully docked to the station and is continuing its mission in orbit.
Station Commander Walker will hand over station control to Hoshide on Tuesday at 1:25 p.m. Hoshide will assume command of Expedition 65 during the change of command ceremony live on NASA TV.
Staying aboard with Crew-2 are three crewmates who rocketed to the orbiting lab aboard the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship on April 9. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is on his second station mission having served previously as an Expedition 53/54 flight engineer. This is the third station visit for cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy who was last aboard the station in 2013 and 2016. Cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov is on his first space flight.
There was time for science in space today with the crew servicing combustion research gear and transferring frozen biological samples into science freezers. Hardware for an experiment supporting pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries is also being packed for return to Earth soon.
A Russian cargo craft, the ISS Progress 75, is due to depart from the Zvezda service module on Tuesday at 7:11 p.m. This will complete a year-long stay on the station’s Russian segment one day before it reenters Earth’s atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean for a fiery, but safe destruction.