Astronauts Swap Command Before Monday Homecoming

Expedition 50 Change of Command Ceremony
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough (far left) handed over station command Sunday morning to Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson (far right). In between (from left) are Flight Engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko, who are returning to Earth Monday with Kimbrough, and Flight Engineers Thomas Pesquet and Oleg Novitskiy, who are staying in space with Whitson. Credit: NASA TV

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, and his crewmates Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, are scheduled to return to Earth on Monday, April 10 at 7:21 a.m. EDT (5:21 p.m. Kazakhstan time). The trio will land in their Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

Hatch closure is scheduled for 12:40 a.m. tomorrow. NASA Television coverage will begin at 12:15 a.m.

Together, the Expedition 50 crew members contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science during their 171-day stay aboard the orbiting laboratory. In all, the departing trio will have spent 173 days in space since their launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Oct. 19 last year.

Earlier today, Kimbrough handed over the command of station to NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson. When the spacecraft undocks from station tomorrow, Expedition 51 will formally begin.

NASA Television coverage of Soyuz activities April 10 are listed below. Watch live on NASA’s website.

Timeline and NASA TV Coverage

Time (EDT)   Event

12:15 a.m.     NASA TV Coverage of Exp. 50 Farewell and Hatch Closure Begins
12:40 a.m.     Soyuz MS-02/Space Station Hatch Closure
3:30 a.m.       NASA TV Coverage of Soyuz Undocking Begins
3:56 a.m.       Soyuz Undock Command Sent
3:57 a.m.       Soyuz Undocking from International Space Station
4 a.m.            Separation Burn 1
4:01 a.m.       Separation Burn 2
6 a.m.            NASA TV Coverage of Deorbit Burn and Landing
6:28 a.m.       Soyuz Deorbit Burn (4 minutes, 38 seconds duration)
6:55 a.m.       Soyuz Module Separation (altitude ~87 miles)
6:58 a.m.       Soyuz Atmospheric Entry (altitude ~62 miles)
7:06 a.m.       Command to Open Chutes (altitude 6.7 miles)
7:21 a.m.       Exp. 50 Soyuz MS-02 Landing southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan

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Crew Packing Soyuz for Monday Landing

Earth and Stars Viewed from Station
This long exposure photograph shows the Earth, its atmospheric glow and stars from the International Space Station.

Two NASA astronauts and a European Space Agency astronaut headed into the weekend with a light day Friday. Meanwhile, the three cosmonauts from Roscosmos packed a Soyuz spacecraft for departure and worked on maintenance and science.

Commander Shane Kimbrough, who is returning to Earth early Monday, took it easy Friday aboard the International Space Station. He and Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet mainly performed light duty tasks and continued their daily exercise to stay healthy in space.

Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko, who are returning home Monday with Kimbrough, continued packing the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft that will parachute the trio to a landing in Kazakhstan after a 173 days in space.

Ryzhikov, who is on his first mission, will command the Soyuz during its undocking and reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Borisenko and Kimbrough are both wrapping up their second visit to space.

Whitson will become station commander for the second time in her career Sunday less than 24 hours before her crewmates undock from the Poisk module. She stays behind with fellow Expedition 50-51 crew members Pesquet and Flight Engineer Oleg Novitskiy.

Trio Packs for Homecoming and Whitson’s Mission Extended

Expedition 50 Trio
Expedition 50 crew members (from left) Shane Kimbrough, Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko will depart the station Monday April 10 ending their stay in space.

Three crew members aboard the International Space Station are packing up their gear for a homecoming on Monday. NASA also decided to extend the mission of an astronaut living aboard the station since November.

Two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut will take a ride back to Earth early Monday inside the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft. Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko will have completed a 173-day mission in space when they land Monday at 7:21 a.m. EDT in Kazakhstan. NASA TV will broadcast the departure and landing activities live.

Kimbrough has accumulated six spacewalks over two missions, including the STS-126 mission aboard space shuttle Endeavour in 2008. Ryzhikov, who is on his first space mission, will be commanding the Soyuz spacecraft during its landing. Borisenko was last aboard the station in 2011 and is completing his second stint as a station crew member.

Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson has been granted a three-month extension to her already record-breaking career aboard the station. She will stay in space until September as a member of Expeditions 50, 51 and 52. NASA managers wanted to ensure the station maintained a six-person crew to maximize research while Russia temporarily reduces its crew to two cosmonauts.

Spacesuit Checks Ahead of Monday Crew Departure

Astronaut Shane Kimbrough
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough is seen inside the Quest airlock at the end of a spacewalk on March 24, 2017.

The Expedition 50 crew is checking out U.S. spacesuits today and testing tiny internal satellites for research. Three crew members are also packing up for a ride back to Earth on Monday.

Commander Shane Kimbrough worked on a pair of spacesuits today following the completion of two spacewalks last month. He sampled and tested the cooling water that flows through the suits to keep astronauts cool in the extreme environment of outer space.

Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson conducted test runs of the SPHERES satellites today to demonstrate autonomous docking maneuvers. The bowling ball-sized miniature satellites (also known as Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) have been used for a variety of purposes including student algorithm competitions and fluid physics.

Kimbrough is winding down his stay in space with cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko. The trio this week is packing the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft with science samples, personal items and other cargo for a landing in Kazakhstan after 173 days in space. NASA TV will broadcast the crew departure activities live with landing scheduled for Monday at 7:20 a.m. EDT.

Station Prepares for April Crew Swap

Expedition 51 Crew Members
Expedition 51 crew members (from left) Fyodor Yurchikhin and Jack Fischer pose for a portrait in front of the Soyuz spacecraft mockup in Star City, Russia. Credit: NASA/Rob Navias

Three Expedition 50 crew members are getting ready to end their stay aboard the International Space Station and return to Earth April 10. Two Expedition 51 crew members, who will replace them, are in Russia finalizing their mission preparations before they launch April 20.

Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko have been living in space since October 19. The trio will enter the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft on Monday and undock from the Poisk module at 4 a.m. EDT. They will land in Kazakhstan at 7:20 a.m. ending their mission after 173 days in space. The crew departure and Soyuz landing will be televised live on NASA TV.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will take over command of the station the day before Kimbrough and his crewmates leave. Staying behind with Whitson will be European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet and cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos. This will be Whitson’s second stint as commander of the orbital laboratory having last led the Expedition 16 crew in 2008.

Back in Russia, two Expedition 51 crewmates, Jack Fischer of NASA and Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos, have completed their final qualification exams. They will fly to Kazakhstan on Wednesday for ceremonial duties, check out their Soyuz MS-04 rocket and wrap up mission training before launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.