Expedition 46 Trio Leaves Station for Ride to Earth

Soyuz TMA-18M Undocks
The Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft undocks carrying Expedition 46 crew members Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov. Credit: NASA TV

Astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov undocked from the station at 8:02 p.m. EST to begin their voyage home. Volkov, the Soyuz commander, is at the controls of the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft.

They will perform a separation burn to increase the distance from the station before executing a 4-minute, 49-second deorbit burn at 10:32 p.m. The crew is scheduled to land at 11:25 p.m. southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

All three crew will participate in Field Tests immediately after landing. Scott Kelly will conduct Functional Task Tests once he is back at NASA’s Johnson Space Center which will assess how the human body responds to living in microgravity for such a long time. Understanding how astronauts recover after long-duration spaceflight is a critical piece in planning for missions to deep space.

The Expedition 47 crew members, Commander Tim Kopra of NASA, Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos, and Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) will continue research and maintenance aboard the station and will be joined March 18 by three additional crew members, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Skriprochka and Alexey Ovchinin.

NASA Television will air live coverage of the Soyuz TMA-18M deorbit burn and landing beginning at 10:15 p.m.

Here is the timeline for Expedition 46’s landing:

Tuesday, March 1

EST                            EVENT

10:15 p.m.                 NASA TV: Expedition 46 Soyuz TMA-18M deorbit burn and landing coverage

10:32 p.m.                  Soyuz TMA-18M deorbit burn (4 minutes, 49 seconds duration)

10:37 p.m.                  Soyuz deorbit burn complete

10:59 p.m.                  Soyuz module separation (altitude 87 miles)

11:02 p.m.                  Soyuz atmospheric entry (altitude 62 miles)

11:10 p.m.                  Command to open parachute (6.6 miles)

11:25 p.m.                 Expedition 46 Soyuz TMA-18M landing southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan

Expedition 46 Undocking and Landing Timeline

Crew Farewell
The six Expedition 46 crew members gather one last time before saying farewell and closing the hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the International Space Station. From left are, Yuri Malenchenko, Tim Kopra, Mikhail Kornienko, Sergey Volkov, Scott Kelly and Tim Peake. Credit: NASA TV

Today is homecoming day for International Space Station Commander Scott Kelly of NASA and Flight Engineers Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos as they prepare for landing in their Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft at 11:25 p.m. EST tonight, southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

At this time, there are no concerns or issues being worked, and hatch closure is scheduled to occur at 4:40 p.m.

Kelly handed over command of the orbiting complex to NASA astronaut Tim Kopra in a ceremony on Monday, Feb. 29. When the Soyuz undocks, Expedition 47 formally will begin.

The landing of Expedition 46 marks the end of a year in space for Kelly and Kornienko. This is the first time that extensive research using exciting new techniques like genetic studies has been conducted on very long-duration crew members. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is the first American to complete a continuous, year-long mission in space and is now the American who has spent the most cumulative time in space.

NASA Television coverage times for Soyuz activities are listed below. These activities also will stream online at https://www.nasa.gov/ntv.

Here is a timeline of the Expedition 46 undocking and landing.

Tuesday, March 1

EST                            EVENT

4:15 p.m.                   NASA TV: Expedition 46 farewell & hatch closure      coverage
4:40 p.m.                    Soyuz TMA-18M/space station hatch closure

7:45 p.m.                   NASA TV: Expedition 46 Soyuz TMA-18M undocking coverage
8:01 p.m.                    Soyuz undock command sent
8:02 p.m.                    Soyuz TMA-18M undocks from space station
8:05 p.m.                    Soyuz manual separation burn

10:15 p.m.                 NASA TV: Expedition 46 Soyuz TMA-18M deorbit burn and landing coverage
10:32 p.m.                    Soyuz TMA-18M deorbit burn (4 minutes, 49 seconds duration)
10:37 p.m.                    Soyuz deorbit burn complete
10:59 p.m.                    Soyuz module separation (altitude 87 miles)
11:02 p.m.                    Soyuz atmospheric entry (altitude 62 miles)
11:10 p.m.                    Command to open parachute (6.6 miles)

11:25 p.m.                 Expedition 46 Soyuz TMA-18M landing southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan

Join the conversation on Twitter @space_station and following #ISS. To learn more about all the ways to connect and collaborate with NASA, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/connect.

Soyuz Spacecraft
Astronaut Scott Kelly photographed the Soyuz spacecraft he is riding home.

Today is Homecoming Day for a Record-Setting Crew

Sunrise
Astronaut Scott Kelly posted this photo taken from the International Space Station to Twitter on Feb. 27, 2016 with the caption, “Of all the sunrises I’ve seen on my #YearInSpace, this was one of the best! One of the last too. Headed home soon.” Credit: https://twitter.com/StationCDRKelly

Three Expedition 46 crew members are finishing packing the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft for the ride home today, ending their record-setting mission. Three other space station residents will stay behind until June and wave farewell to their crewmates when they undock tonight.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Roscosmos cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko are riding back to Earth with Soyuz Commander Sergey Volkov. The trio will undock at 8:02 p.m. EST today/1:02 a.m. UTC Wednesday and land in Kazakhstan at 11:25 p.m. NASA TV will begin live coverage at 4:15 p.m. as the crew enters the Soyuz spacecraft and closes the hatches.

Kelly and Kornienko will have lived in space continuously for 340 days when they land tonight for an International Space Station program record. Volkov will have been in orbit for 182 days.

After the crew parachutes to a landing Kelly will be greeted by NASA personnel and checked out by doctors before flying back to the United States and landing in Houston 24 hours later. Kelly will be monitored over the next few weeks and months as scientists learn how living in space affects the human body before NASA sends astronauts to an asteroid or Mars.