Final Full Day in Orbit for Volkov and Year In Space Crew

Orbiting Earth at Night
Day 325. Set your sails for the #stars! #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace. Credit:

International Space Station Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko, who have been living in space since March of last year, are spending their last full day in orbit today. The duo are returning home Tuesday evening with Soyuz Commander Sergey Volkov who will lead the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft back to Earth.

Kelly will hand over command of the orbital laboratory to NASA astronaut Tim Kopra in a ceremony today at 3:10 p.m. EST/8:10 p.m. UTC live on NASA Television. When the Soyuz spacecraft undocks Tuesday, Expedition 47 will officially begin with Flight Engineers Tim Peake and Yuri Malenchenko staying behind with Kopra.

While the homebound trio is wrapping up its mission, the three remaining crewmates will stay in orbit till June and continue their science and maintenance activities. Today, Peake worked inside Japan’s Kibo lab module preparing to increase its stowage capacity. Kopra explored new space exercise techniques to minimize bone and muscle loss during long-term missions. Malenchenko checked on Soyuz communications and worked on several Russian science experiments.

Tune in to NASA TV Tuesday beginning at 4:15 p.m. to watch the live Soyuz crew departure and landing activities. Kelly and Kornienko will have accumulated 340 days in space while Volkov will have been orbiting 182 days when they land Tuesday at 11:25 p.m.

Crew Explores Breathing Risks of Long-Term Space Mission

Shanghai, China
Astronaut Scott Kelly shared this image of Shanghai, China on Instagram. Credit:

A pair of astronauts is exploring breathing risks during long term space missions today while a trio of crew members is packing a Soyuz spacecraft for the return home.

NASA astronaut and two-time space station resident Tim Kopra joined first-time British astronaut for the Airway Monitoring experiment. That study explores the risk of breathing in toxic dust during future crewed missions to Mars which can possibly upset a crew member’s respiratory system.

Kopra and Peake will be staying in space until June with cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko. They will become the Expedition 47 crew when a pair of One-Year crew members and a veteran cosmonaut undock in their Soyuz spacecraft and return to Earth next week.

Station Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko are set to complete 340 days in space when they land in Kazakhstan on March 1 U.S. time. Cosmonaut Sergey Volkov, who will lead the duo home inside the Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft, will have lived in space for 182 days.

Crew Wrapping Up Year-Long Mission in Less than a Week

Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly (left) and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko marked their 300th consecutive day aboard the International Space Station on Jan. 21, 2016.

Three International Space Station crew members, two of whom have been in orbit nearly a year, will complete their stay in space March 1. As they prepare for landing, the Expedition 46 crew is moving right along with human research, advanced space science and ongoing lab maintenance.

One-Year crew mates Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko will join Soyuz Commander Sergey Volkov for a ride back to Earth Tuesday. They will undock inside the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft and land in Kazakhstan carrying personal items and science for analysis.

Kelly joined NASA astronaut Tim Kopra for some plumbing work throughout Wednesday. Kelly also participated in blood, urine and saliva sample collections to help doctors understand how living in space affects the human body.

British astronaut Tim Peake, who will be staying in space till June, began checking out new science gear that will support new biology research. Peake also set up hardware for an experiment that explores the risk of airway inflammation in astronauts.

Repair Tasks Dominate Tuesday for Expedition 46

Image shared by Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly with the caption "#Countdown Let's take this 16 sunsets at a time. 8 days to go tomorrow! #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace."
Image shared by Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly with the caption “#Countdown Let’s take this 16 sunsets at a time. 8 days to go tomorrow! #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace.”

The crew of Expedition 46 was engaged in a variety of repair tasks today across the orbiting laboratory. ESA astronaut Tim Peake replaced cables in the station’s Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, the primary tool for astronaut resistive exercise vital for maintaining bone and muscle mass while in microgravity. NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra worked to replace key components in the station’s Water Processing Assembly.

Peake also set up units for the NASA Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory (SABL), which is capable of supporting life science research on microorganisms, small organisms, animal cells, tissue cultures and small plants.

Meanwhile, Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko are just one week away from the conclusion of their one-year mission. The pair are set to land in Kazakhstan at 11:27 p.m. EST March 1.

New Technology Debuts as Crew Begins Week

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly performing checkouts for NASA's Project Sidekick, which makes use of Microsoft's HoloLens device.
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly performing checkouts for NASA’s Project Sidekick, which makes use of Microsoft’s HoloLens device.

Over the weekend, Expedition 46 commander Scott Kelly worked with ground controllers to successfully checkout the Sidekick device and internet connectivity. The project, which makes use of Microsoft’s HoloLens device, aims to enable station crews with assistance when and where they need it. This new capability could reduce crew training requirements and increase the efficiency at which astronauts can work in space.

Also on Saturday, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus resupply vehicle successfully deorbited at approximately 10:53 a.m. EST.

The crew engaged in a variety of scientific experiments on Monday, including research into colloidal structures vital to the design of advanced materials, human research on astronaut heart health and overall body changes, and protecting human fitness during long-duration spaceflight.

Kelly and his fellow Expedition 46 crew mates Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov are continuing to prepare for their landing on March 1, U.S. time. The landing will wrap up Kelly and Kornienko’s yearlong stay in space.

Spaceship Takes Out Trash Before One-Year Crew Goes Home

Space Station Configuration
There are now four spacecraft docked to the International Space Station after the Cygnus left Friday morning. The next spacecraft to leave will be the Soyuz TMA-18M docked to the Poisk module on March 1.

The Expedition 46 crew took out the trash today when it released the Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft from the grips of the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. In less than two weeks, another spacecraft will leave returning three crew members back to Earth.

The Cygnus was filled with trash and discarded gear over the last few days before the hatches were closed Thursday. Ground controllers then remotely guided the Canadarm2 to grapple Cygnus and detach it from the Unity module.

NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra commanded the Canadarm2 to release Cygnus today at 7:26 a.m. EST when it began gracefully departing the vicinity of the station. Orbital ATK controllers in Virginia will guide Cygnus into the Earth’s atmosphere Saturday morning where it will safely burn up high over the Pacific Ocean.

Kelly and a pair of cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov now turn their attention to their March 1 homecoming. They will be packing the Soyuz TMA-18M with science experiments and personal items for the ride home. Kelly and Kornienko will be completing 340 consecutive days in space, while Volkov will be wrapping up 182 days in orbit.

Cargo Ship and Crew Departure Preps Underway

Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft
Astronaut Tim Peake photographed the Cygnus cargo spacecraft with its umbrella-like solar arrays. The Soyuz TMA-19M crew spaceship is seen to the left. Credit:

The crew aboard the International Space Station is set to say farewell to a pair of spaceships over the next several days. The first spaceship, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo craft, is being readied for its release Friday morning. After that, the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft will return to Earth March 1 bringing home three crew members.

Mission controllers in Houston are finalizing preparations before the 57.7 foot Canadarm2 robotic arm detaches Cygnus from the Unity module. NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra will command the Canadarm2 to release Cygnus at 7:25 a.m. EDT Friday. Finally, Orbital ATK controllers in Virginia will command Cygnus to move away from the station and head towards Earth to burn up high in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

Kelly, along with cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, is in his final days of a mission that began in March of last year. The pair will take a ride home with three-time station resident Sergey Volkov who has been aboard the orbital lab since September. When the trio lands in Kazakhstan March 1, Kelly and Kornienko will have lived in space continuously for 340 days. Volkov’s mission will have lasted 182 days.

While the crew is busy with spacecraft departure activities, British astronaut Tim Peake worked on a variety of experiments today. He partnered with Kopra on a pair of experiments, one looking at how astronauts work on detailed interactive tasks and another researching cognitive performance. Peake also studied the thermophyscial properties of different metals inside Japan’s Electrostatic Levitation Furnace.

Station Boosts Orbit before Heavy Spacecraft Traffic Period

Solar Arrays and Earth's Limb
The International Space Station’s solar arrays and the Earth’s limb were photographed during a Jan. 15, 2016, spacewalk.

The International Space Station raised its orbit again today as three crew members prepare for a March 1 landing while another trio gets ready for a March 18 launch. Meanwhile, advanced research continued inside the orbital laboratory to improve life on Earth and for future space residents.

Today’s orbital reboost places the station at the correct altitude for the March 1 undocking of Soyuz Commander Sergey Volkov and One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko. Their undocking will leave the Poisk module’s docking port vacant where a trio of Expedition 47 crew members will dock two-and-a-half weeks later inside the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft.

Today, the Expedition 46 crew participated in a variety of human research exploring how the heart adapts to life in space, the risk of atherosclerosis in astronauts and how microgravity affects an astronaut’s vision. The crew also sampled the station’s air and surfaces for microbes to learn how to prevent contamination in future spacecraft.

Another spacecraft is being prepared for departure Friday morning when it will be released from the grips of the 57.7 foot long Canadarm2 robotic arm. The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft is being loaded with trash before NASA astronauts Kelly and Tim Kopra release Cygnus using the robotics controls inside the seven-window cupola. NASA Television will cover the activities live Friday beginning at 7 a.m. EST.

Station Ramps Up for March Crew Swap

Aurora over Canada
Astronaut Scott Kelly photographed and tweeted this image of an aurora over Canada. Credit: @StationCDRKelly

The crew aboard the International Space Station is getting ready for a busy traffic month set to begin March 1. Meanwhile, advanced microgravity research and spacesuit work continues inside the orbital lab.

One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko are preparing to come home March 1 after 340 days in space. Flight Engineer Sergey Volkov will return with them inside the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft. Then on March 18, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin will launch aboard the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft and join Expedition 47.

Kelly harvested Zinnia plants Monday grown for the Veggie experiment as scientists validate the botany gear to determine the effectiveness of growing plants in space. The Expedition 46 commander also scrubbed spacesuit cooling loops today after inspecting another spacesuit for leaks Monday.

Astronauts Tim Kopra and Tim Peake joined Kelly at the end of the work day for eye checks. Earlier in the day Kopra studied the flammability of different textiles in space while Peake participated in educational science activities.

Spacesuit Work Wraps Up as Robotic Arm Preps for Cygnus Release

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly works on a spacesuit inside the Quest airlock.

Two astronauts are wrapping up spacesuit maintenance today while a variety of human research takes place inside the International Space Station. Outside the station, the 57.7 foot long Canadarm2 robotic arm is being prepared for the upcoming release of a space freighter.

Commander Scott Kelly and astronaut Time Peake from the European Space Agency are finalizing gear replacement work on a U.S. spacesuit today. The spacesuit will be inspected Monday before it is certified for return to service.

On the life science front, Kelly joined cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko and NASA astronaut Tim Kopra for eye and heart scans with an ultrasound. The scans are part of the ongoing Ocular Health study seeking to understand visual impairment some astronauts have experienced during their space missions.

Kopra earlier attached sensors to himself for the Sprint study which seeks to reduce muscle and bone loss with new exercise techniques while living in space. Peake collected his own breath sample for the Marrow experiment that observes how microgravity affects bone marrow and blood cells.

Ground controllers are maneuvering the Canadarm2 in position for the Feb. 19 grapple and release of the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft. The Cygnus will be released for a fiery destruction high in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean after being attached to the Unity module for over two months.